Dorothy Dandridge is an interesting actress. Miscast in several roles and never given a chance to shine because of her skin color, she was reduced to an obscurity that prevailed throughout her whole career until her untimely death of an overdose at forty two. If she had been born around the time she died, she might have had a better chance then she did in the forties and fifties. Might is the key word there, because although we have made progress as society towards more acceptance of people of different color, you can still look at many mainstream films and see mostly white faces save the exception of the token ethnic character who is no where near the lead.
When looking at Dorothy Dandridge’s filmography, Carmen Jones is the only film that jumps out and says “this is a true demostration of her talent.” Being a unique animal for several reasons, Carmen Jones stars Dandridge as a vixen in a war time factory who sings about the men she has had and inability to be pinned down. She targets a man who is in the service and is a little bit of a brownnoser. He has ambitions to be a pilot and to marry this safe girl who he has been courting for awhile and reminds him of his mother. She seduces him and he deserts the army in order to be with Carmen. He tries to control her and pin her down. She resists with a vivacity that is fist pumping.
Although her original voice was not used, Dandridge embodied this strong vixen character completely. She struts around and uses her magnificent curves to alternately attract and then turn on men. This role was made for her. I think it is a pity that she didn’t get more roles like this one. How can nobody see this film and not want to put her in their film? It is hard to imagine the strict prejudice in most people’s minds and yet it is easy to accept the films that were produced out of this prejudice.