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"Porgy and Bess" Film.

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Mrs Mangel
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"Porgy and Bess" Film. #1
Posted: 6/14/08 at 10:41pm
Just wondering if anyone has actually seen it? I heard a rumour that the Gershwin estate had it taken out of circulation, and Ira wasn't happy with it. I just managed to pick up the soundtrack on lp. for, like 50 cents.
The Other One
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re: 'Porgy and Bess' Film. #2
Posted: 6/14/08 at 10:54pm
I saw it two years ago at the Museum of the Moving Image, and believe it received a few screenings throughout the country at that time. I thought the estate had lightened up in its objections to the film and that a DVD release had been scheduled, but I might be wrong about that.

It isn't a great movie, but it's worth seeing. It also must be seen in widescreen. I felt that it was more a filmed recreation of the show as it had been staged than an actual film, as much of it is shot almost proscenium style. It worked, though, and I enjoyed myself. The audience I saw it with did, too.

Also, I believe Cab Calloway can be heard singing Sportin' Life on the soundtrack LP, but a terrific Sammy Davis plays and sings him in the film. Recording contract obligations kept him off of the Columbia soundtrack, sort of ironic as he was one of the few principals in the film who did his own singing.
Updated On: 6/14/08 at 10:54 PM
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PalJoey
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re: 'Porgy and Bess' Film. #2
Posted: 6/14/08 at 11:20pm
I saw it in graduate school. The Gershwins were right to withdraw it at the time, but it should definitely be released now on DVD.
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Mrs Mangel
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re: 'Porgy and Bess' Film. #3
Posted: 6/14/08 at 11:54pm
It is Cab Calloway on the soundtrack, which really isn't a bad thing. He just isn't Sammy Davis who was in the movie. Pearl Bailey is fantastic. How was she in the film?
The Other One
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re: 'Porgy and Bess' Film. #4
Posted: 6/15/08 at 6:47am
She was great, of course. She always was.

I like Cab as Sportin' Life, too. I have him on the Ed Sullivan collection singing "There's a Boat That's Leavin' Soon For New York". But it would have been good to have Sammy's singing officially released on the album.

Robert McFerrin, who sang for Poitier, is the father of Bobby McFerrin of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" fame.
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re: 'Porgy and Bess' Film. #5
Posted: 6/15/08 at 9:32am
The Gershwin estate did withdraw the music rights in 1974 without which the film cannot be released. They are now willing to allow the movie to be put out on DVD ..BUT the film is in poor condition and in need of a good deal of restorative work, which is expensive and no one wants to undertake it for a title expected to have minimal sales.

The "soundtrack" album is not actually taken from the film soundtrack, but is rather a studio re-creation of the songs from the film. Sammy Davis was under contract to Decca at the time and had already recorded an album of songs from PORGY with jazz singer Carmen MacRae. So, Columbia used Cab Calloway. Ironically, Davis was one of teh few principals who actually sang for himslf in the movie. It was briefly issued on CD by Sony/U.K. in 1995 but the CD was quickly deleted, and so it is quite scarce.

The film was on TV frequently in the early 70's and I saw it many times. It follows the 1942 Cheryl Crawford Broadway revival format which replaces much of the sung recitative with spoken dialogue. Post-production editing removed "My Man's Gone Now" - one of the Opera's most powerful arias.

Cast albums are NOT "soundtracks."
Live theatre does not use a "soundtrack." If it did, it wouldn't be live theatre!

I host a weekly one-hour radio program featuring cast album selections as well as songs by cabaret, jazz and theatre artists. The program, FRONT ROW CENTRE is heard Sundays 9 to 10 am and also Saturdays from 8 to 9 am (eastern times) on www.proudfm.com

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re: 'Porgy and Bess' Film. #6
Posted: 6/15/08 at 10:56am
Sony Pictures (who owns the Columbia film) is focusing all their attention and finances on hi-def transfers right now to push the Blu-ray format, and of the classics, they've already announced the meticulous restorations in progress for Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge on the River Kwai, Gandhi, Guns of Navarone, etc. (In other words, their classic titles that have already proven to do well in other formats.)

I would think it would be a long time before they got to Porgy & Bess on DVD (or Blu-ray). And if we're talking musicals, their properties like Oliver, Funny Girl and even something like Pal Joey will get the "fancy clean up treatment" first, before this one.

Hey, I'm still hoping for their Bacharach musical version of Lost Horizon to be released!

I'm sure Porgy will get there eventually. It's just in a very long queue, at the moment.
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Mrs Mangel
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re: 'Porgy and Bess' Film. #7
Posted: 6/15/08 at 5:11pm
Robert McFerrin has a great voice. Who does the singing for Dandridge?
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re: 'Porgy and Bess' Film. #8
Posted: 6/15/08 at 7:36pm
SINGING CAST in PORGY AND BESS:
Porgy: ROBERT McFERRIN (for Sidney Poitier)
Bess: ADELE ADDISON (for Dorothy Dandridge)
Sportin’ Life: SAMMY DAVIS Jr. (CAB CALLOWAY on the soundtrack album)
Maria: PEARL BAILEY
Clara: LOULIE JEAN NORMAN (for Dianne Carroll)
Crown: BROCK PETERS
Serena: INEZ MATTHEWS (for Ruth Attaway)
Jake, Mingo, Man, Woman, Strawberry Woman, Crab Man & Chorus:
Members of THE KEN DARBY SINGERS

Although it does follow the scenario of the 1942 Broadway revival, replacing the sung recitatives with dialogue, the 1959 film was the first time that ‘PORGY AND BESS” used the full symphony sized orchestra (65+ musicians) for which Gershwin wrote the work. Previous Broadway productions and recordings used a scaled down orchestra of about 30 players. Andre Previn was very faithful to Gershwin’s original concept of how the music should sound as was Ken Darby’s choral work, which restored the chorus to Gershwin’s original intentions instead of the shrill Broadway choral sound used previously. It would be 15 years before any production or recording of PORGY AND BESS would treat the music in such an operatic fashion, coincidently around the time the Gershwin estate withdrew the music rights for the film. The Gershwin Estate has never had any problem with the way the music is presented in the film; it is the representation of the scenario as more a Broadway musical rather than a true opera that the estate found objectionable because the work was finally being recognized as an opera in the 1970's. The film deserves to be released on DVD as the only video record we have of PORGY AND BESS is an execrable 1980’s British video which presents the work in the worst possible light. The 1959 film, despite its flaws, is a masterpiece compared to this horrible video which is conducted and sung like Verdi instead of Gershwin.

The Columbia soundtrack album features performances as originally recorded for the actual soundtrack of the film. Certain portions of these recordings were revised and/or edited for the finished film. Even Cab Calloway sings on the album to the identical tracks used for Sammy Davis Jr. in the film.

The 1959 film is not a Columbia Picture. It was produced and is owned by Samuel Goldwyn Pictures, which releases its films on DVD thru MGM/UA Home Video. It is the Goldwyn’s responsibility to restore the film as they own the original elements, which the family seems reluctant to do despite the fact that the legendary Samuel Goldwyn Sr. considered PORGY AND BESS the crown jewel of his career as a producer. PORGY AND BESS is one of the most requested titles not yet on home video and would probably sell very well on DVD after the restored version would be theatrically exhibited again in select engagements in large cities.


"I long-ago realized that this country is a nation of morons, when it comes to knowledge of anything outside, or beyond, pop culture." Steve Slezak
Updated On: 6/15/08 at 07:36 PM