I consider it a masterpiece in the fullest sense of the word: one of those rare compositions which seems to reflect most strongly in itself the musical tendencies of a whole generation.”

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's film Carmen Jones is often considered a landmark--both positively and negatively--in the history of black representations in the cinema. Dorothy Dandridge stars as Carmen Jones, tempestuous employee of a parachute factory. Harry Belafonte plays Joe (originally José), a young military officer engaged to marry virginal Cindy Lou (Olga James). When Carmen gets into a fight with another girl, she is placed under arrest and put in Joe's charge. Succumbing to her attractiveness, Joe accompanies Carmen to her old neighborhood, where, after killing a sergeant sent to retrieve him, he deserts the army. Carmen tries to be faithful, but fortune-telling Frankie (Pearl Bailey) warns her that she and her soldier are doomed.

Enter Joe Adams in the role of boxer Husky Miller (a play on Carmen's bullfighter Escamillo), who sweeps Carmen off her feet, ultimately with tragic consequences. Although both Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte were singers, their opera voices were dubbed in by LeVern Hutcherson and Marilyn Horne.

The story was retold on MTV as a “hip-hopera,” featuring Beyoncé Knowles and blending rap with some of Bizet’s original melodies. The film also starred Mos Def, Rah Digga, Wyclef Jean, Mekhi Phifer, Da Brat, Joy Bryant, Jermaine Dupri and Lil' Bow Wow. It is based upon Georges Bizet's opera, Carmen, set in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in modern times, and features a mostly original hip-hop/R&B score in place of Bizet's opera.


The following is a list of film adaptations, based on the opera and/or the novella.

  • 1907 Carmen – Arthur Gilbert, director; a 12-minute British film.

  • 1909 Carmen – Gerolamo Lo Savio, director; an Italian film based on the novella.

  • 1911 CarmenJean Durand, director; a French film starring Gaston Modot.

  • 1912 Carmen – Theo Frenkel, director; a British film.

  • 1913 Carmen – Lucius Henderson, director.

  • 1913 Carmen – Stanner E.V. Taylor, director.

  • 1914 Carmen – Giovanni Doria and Augusto Turqui, directors; a Spanish-Italian co-production based on the opera.

  • 1915 Carmen – Cecil B. DeMille, director; a 65-minute film credited as being based on the novella, because the producers couldn't afford the rights to the opera; nevertheless it included some plot elements from the opera, and was shown with an orchestral arrangement of music from the opera by Hugo Riesenfeld. Starring Geraldine Farrar.

  • 1915 Carmen – Raoul Walsh, director; starring Theda Bara.

  • 1915 Burlesque on Carmen – Charlie Chaplin, director.

  • 1918 Carmen – Ernst Lubitsch, director; with Pola Negri and Harry Liedtke.

  • 1921 Carmen – Ernesto Vollrath, director; a Mexican film.

  • 1922 Carmen – George Wynn, director; a British film.

  • 1926 Carmen – Jacques Feyder, director; starring Raquel Meller.

  • 1927 Carmen – H.B. Parkinson, director; a British film.

  • 1927 The Loves of Carmen – Raoul Walsh director; starring Dolores del Río.

  • 1929 Carmen – Shunichi Takeuchi, director; a Japanese film.

  • 1931 Carmen – Cecil Lewis, director; a British film.

  • 1933 Carmen – Lotte Reiniger, director; a nine-minute German animated film.

  • 1938 Carmen la de Triana / Andalusische Nächte – Florián Rey, director; a Spanish-German film starring Imperio Argentina.

  • 1941 Carmen – A Filipino film.

  • 1943 Carmen – Luis César Amadori, director; an Argentine film.

  • 1945 CarmenChristian-Jaque, director; a French film with Jean Marais and Viviane Romance.

  • 1948 The Loves of Carmen – Charles Vidor, director; based on the novella.

  • 1954 Carmen Jones – Otto Preminger, director; based on the 1943 adaptation by Oscar Hammerstein II, Carmen Jones.

  • 1959 Carmen la de Ronda – Tulio Demicheli, director; a Spanish film starring Sara Montiel and Maurice Ronet.

  • 1960 The Wild, Wild Rose – Wong Tin-Lam, director.

  • 1967 Carmen – Herbert von Karajan director and conductor; a film of the opera starring Grace Bumbry and Jon Vickers.

  • 1983 Carmen – Carlos Saura, director; dance film.

  • 1983 La Tragédie de Carmen – Peter Brook, director; a short film of Brook's own stage adaptation.

  • 1983 Prénom: Carmen – Jean-Luc Godard, director; a loose modern adaptation.

  • 1984 CarmenFrancesco Rosi, director; a film of the opera starring Julia Migenes and Plácido Domingo.

  • 1990 Carmen on Ice – Horant H. Hohlfeld, writer and director.

  • 2001 Carmen: A Hip Hopera – Robert Townsend, director.

  • 2001 Karmen Gei – Joseph Gaï Ramaka director; set in Dakar, Senegal and sung in French and Wolof.

  • 2003 Carmen – Vicente Aranda, director.

  • 2005 U-Carmen eKhayelitsha – Mark Dornford-May, director.

The Roma or Gypsies
Carmen and Gypsy History

Carmen and her friends are Gypsies, a word used to describe an ethnic group of people known for their music, fortunetelling, and nomadic lifestyle. Many misconceptions of Gypsies exist, arising from ignorance and misunderstanding. Some of Carmen's characteristics are based on negative Gypsy stereotypes, but other things are true.

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