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a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, presents The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, Porgy & Bess (1959), starring Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Per Rotten Tomatoes: “This film version of George Gershwin’s classic American operetta tells the story of Porgy, a crippled young man who falls in love with the beautiful, free-spirited and heroin-addicted Bess who is not only loved by her drug dealer, but also by Crown, a ruthless longshoreman.”
I hadn’t seen the film version of this, only the touring Broadway version. I didn’t care for that version and I don’t care for this one. Now, let me clarify. The actual story and the libretto are fine. I’d even say very good. I’m a fan of George and Ira Gerswin. I love musicals. But, I really do not like this as a musical. If it weren’t a musical, perhaps I’d have been all about it. As I said, the subject, the story, the acting, the idea, all good (albeit controversial). The musical aspect itself, primarily the singing, is just atrocious to me. Particularly the lead character’s portrayal.
As I said, I saw the live theatrical version of this and I didn’t like the overly-vibratoed soprano and I didn’t like it here. It’s not Dandridge doing the singing, it’s someone named Adele Addison. It’s just over the top and sounds like noise at times. Now, that may be an artform because my knowledge of music allows me to understand she actually can sing, but this just sounds like wailing. Other characters’ singing parts are just as bad.
The acting parts, not the singing, are on point. I mean, Sidney Poitier? Sammy Davis Jr.? Pearl Bailey? Diahann Carroll? Even Scatman Crothers, Claude Akins and Brock Peters (who played Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird)? All fantastic actors and all did a great job of acting in this film.
With the exception of Sammy Davis, Jr. I can’t find any evidence that any of the lead actors actually wanted to be in the film and did so basically because they were asked by the right people or convinced that not doing it would cause reputable harm to their chances in other films. That, goes to show, though that they’re good actors. None of them wanted to be there but their performances were top notch.
I’ve not gone into my normal explanation of the plot here as I feel I can’t do it without going down a rabbit hole and following the plot to the end. The description from Rotten Tomatoes above describes the plot well enough. Speaking of Rotten Tomatoes, they have it rated 83% Fresh and an Audience Score of 79%. IMDb has it at 7.4 stars out of 10.
I watched it, even knowing I probably wasn’t going to like it, because it was one of the 400 nominees for the AFI‘s 100 Years… 100 Movies list for the 2007 version of the list. As of this writing, I have ONE more film to go to finish the entire 400 nominations list. I will have finished it by the time you read this and I talk about it on TLD.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Cinematography, Color; Best Costume Design, Color; Best Sound; Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. It won the latter. The soundtrack won a Grammy for Best Soundtrack Album, Original Cast – Motion Picture or Television. I can’t find anywhere that has this film available for streaming. Not Netflix, DVD.com, Hulu or Amazon Prime. You can purchase it from Amazon, which I did, around 8 years ago, but be warned it’s a DVD copy of a very bad VHS or other type of tape because there are lines and there’s tape drag. If I were going on acting alone this film would be rated around 3.5 stars, but because I didn’t care for the musical aspect, I’m rating it 2.5 stars out of 5. Have you seen it? Do you agree or disagree? What would you like to hear/read me review?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy.” – “Summertime” (Gershwin, Heyward, Gershwin)