Porgy And Bess

  • 1959
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Musical

With a budget of over $6 million, why wasn't this classic American operetta a classic American movie? Perhaps the fault lies in Samuel Goldwyn's decision to fire director Rouben Mamoulian in favor of Otto Preminger--if anyone could muddle a great saga, it was Preminger. The crippled Porgy (Sidney Poitier) loves Bess (Dorothy Dandridge), a floozy adored...read more

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With a budget of over $6 million, why wasn't this classic American operetta a classic American movie? Perhaps the fault lies in Samuel Goldwyn's decision to fire director Rouben Mamoulian in favor of Otto Preminger--if anyone could muddle a great saga, it was Preminger. The crippled

Porgy (Sidney Poitier) loves Bess (Dorothy Dandridge), a floozy adored by many men, including Crown (Brock Peters), a tough stevedore, and Sportin' Life (Sammy Davis, Jr.), who supplies her with heroin and who is always trying to take her away from life in Catfish Row. After Crown kills a man in

an argument over a game of craps and must flee the police, Bess settles in with Porgy. When Crown returns, wanting Bess back, Porgy kills him in turn, then hides out, while Bess agrees to follow Sportin' Life to New York. Porgy comes back to Catfish Row, learns that she's left, and is determined

to follow her as the film ends--a simple story carried into the stratosphere by the glorious music. Poitier, not yet a star, initially accepted the role of Porgy, then declined, reportedly because of feeling within the black community that the story was racist, until producer Goldwyn and Mamoulian

again convinced him to do the project. His singing voice and Dandridge's are dubbed; Davis, Pearl Bailey (as Maria), and Peters all do their own singing. (As Clara, Diahann Carroll, a wonderful nightclub singer lacking operatic range, also has her voice looped.) Shooting was delayed when fire

decimated the Goldwyn lot, and in the month it took to rebuild everything, Goldwyn and Mamoulian began to have "creative differences." Thus Preminger was called in to replace Mamoulian, with rather heavy-handed results. The brilliant score by the Gershwins and DuBose Heyward, however, will last

forever, while Preminger's veteran cameraman, Leon Shamroy, did a wonderful job and the art direction by Serge Krizman and Joseph Wright is sensational.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: With a budget of over $6 million, why wasn't this classic American operetta a classic American movie? Perhaps the fault lies in Samuel Goldwyn's decision to fire director Rouben Mamoulian in favor of Otto Preminger--if anyone could muddle a great saga, it… (more)

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