A young Pearl Bailey reminds us to take some time to embrace the rhythm.
As we age, so might our confidence. And this is exactly why we need Pearl Bailey’s Frankie to pull us through tough times. Sure, an impromptu dancing and singing number on stage can be seen as a ploy for attention, but it can also be an empowering move of self-expression when one hears the music calling. Sometimes, a girl just wants to dance.
Here we see Bailey performing in Carmen Jones (1954), one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies featuring an all African-American cast. It’s a retelling of Bizet’s opera about a strong woman “who lives by her own rules and discards men when she tires of them.” A well known singer, Bailey’s sexy, throaty rendition of the “bump bump bump” in the music is enough to get her grooving. She’s vibrant, powerful, and most importantly – confident.
A fantastic vision of an all-black world set on an army base in the South during World War II, Carmen Jones courted controversy for director Otto Preminger and star Dorothy Dandridge. Opinions weren’t sure the lead’s slatternly ways were a good role model for black women at the time. Then lady-like Dandridge showed up for her second audition with heavy makeup and asked screen test partner James Edwards to blow on her freshly-painted toe nails. Dandridge got the part, going on to become the first African-American woman to be nominated for Best Actress.