Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
August 21
October 5, 1954
Carmen Redux

Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones premiered on 5 October 1954, bringing Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1943 musical to the screen. Taking a cue from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Hammerstein turned Bizet’s classic opera of a lusty gypsy who seduces a hapless soldier into an African-American melodrama set in the modern South. Preminger cast the relatively unknown Dorothy Dandridge as his lead with Harry Belafonte as her GI beau. And while both Dandridge and Belafonte were accomplished singers, Marilyn Horne and Leverne Hutchinson were brought in to dub their voices to keep the sound more operatic. The film proved a commercial and critical success, with Dandridge becoming the first African-American nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. The film was a hit everywhere but France; a suit brought by Bizet’s estate against the film’s modernization of the score made it impossible to show Carmen Jones there until 1981.


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Orson Welles August 21, 1939
Orson Welles signs with RKO

On this day in 1939, the Mercury Theatre's wonderboy, Orson Welles, signed a contract with RKO Pictures to write, direct, produce and act in two movies for the studio.

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August 21, 1932
Melvin Van Peebles born

Melvin Van Peebles, since his birth in Chicago on August 21, 1932, has been battling the odds and the system – and winning.

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21 August 1932
Sweet Payback

Melvin Van Peebles couldn't get a break playing white Hollywood's game. But when he rewrote the rule book with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, everything changed.

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