Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
- Dorothy Dandridge Films
- Love Triangle
- Otto Preminger Films
- Sidney Poitier Films
This notorious “lost film” — directed by Otto Preminger, and based on the 1935 opera by George and Ira Gershwin and librettist DuBose Heyward — can still only be seen in an inferior bootleg version, which compromises one’s appreciation of the original widescreen Todd-AO cinematography but at least allows one to get a sense of the movie. A quick read about the film’s production history gives an indication of how many challenges there were, starting with Rouben Mamoulian (the original director) parting ways after a fire burned down all the sets and costumes, and the reluctance of many cast members to play roles that were considered somewhat demeaning. (Poitier, whose singing was dubbed, always hated his participation in this film, which surely didn’t help the case towards its restoration.)
As someone unfamiliar with the original story or opera (other than the classic tune “Summertime”), I was pleased to finally learn who these famous characters are, and to see how authentically kind Porgy is towards Bess (who comes across as a decidedly flawed but sympathetic drug addict trying to turn her life around). The storyline is depressing and somewhat statically filmed, so it’s the songs one waits for — and Sammy Davis Jr.’s rendition of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is a particular highlight.
While this movie musical isn’t must-see viewing, it’s certainly of interest as a notorious “lost film”, and film fanatics may be curious to check it out simply given its history and top-name cast.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- (Presumably) the Todd-AO cinematography
- The inimitable score
No, but it’s recommended if you come across a copy — and it will be fun to see the restored version one day! Chosen for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2011.