“Day-O. Day-O. Daylight coming and me want to go home.”
On March 1, 1927, Harold George Belafonte, Jr. was born in Harlem, New York to emigrants from the Caribbean Islands of Martinique and Jamaica. From 1932 to 1940, he moved from the states to Jamaica, living with one of his grandmothers. He would later return to New York City, where he would attend George Washington High School. After, he joined the Navy, serving in the second World War.
Before appearing in films, Belafonte was a Caribbean folk singer, recording songs such as “Banana Boat Song” and “Jamaica Farewell”. His breakthrough album “Calypso” would sell a million copies, making him the first single artist to accomplish this. He became known as the King of Calypso.
In 1953, Belafonte made his screen debut in “Bright Road” and a year later, starring in the lead role in the musical “Carmen Jones” with Dorothy Dandridge. The movie was a huge hit, earning Dandridge an Oscar nomination for Best Actresses.
Belafonte was an advocate for political and humanitarian causes. He was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Along with others, such as Sydney Poitier and Charlton Heston, he attended the Civil Rights March on Washington, DC in 1963.
During his nearly seven-decade long career, he has been awarded three Grammys, an Emmy (the first black performer to win), and a Tony. This multi-talented performer resides in New York with his wife, Pamela Frank. He is 93.
“Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959) is my first film pick of this week. The beautifully shot film was directed by Academy Award winning director, Robert Wise. It is a tale of a former policeman, David Burke, recruiting a racist, ex con, Earle Slater, and Johnny Ingram, a black nightclub entertainer to participate in a bank heist. With Slater and Ingram at each other throats and Burke, in the middle, cooling their tempers, the question is – will they succeed? This one is a nail biter from beginning to end.
My second selection is “Carmen Jones” (1954). This is the story of a factory worker, Carmen Jones, who is arrested for fighting with a co-worker. Joe, a handsome Corporal, is assigned to transport her to the civilian authorities. During their trip, Carmen seduces the young man, capturing his heart. Conflicts soon arise, leading towards Joe’s downward spiral.
Directed by Otto Preminger, this one hour, forty-eight minute musical showcases some of the top African American performers, such as Pearl Bailey and Brock Peters. This film is a pure classic.
With that, fill up your glass, click on the tube, and be prepared to be entertained. Both “Odds Against Tomorrow” and “Carmen Jones” can be viewed on YouTube.