Will Spike Lee finally fulfill a lifelong dream of directing a big screen musical? According to IndieWire, the outspoken filmmaker wants adapt the Tony award winning adaptation of George Gershwin’s classic folk opera Porgy and Bess for the big screen. The last film version of the musical, which came out in 1959 and starred Sidney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge is no longer in circulation. IndieWire reports:
A little known fact that even hardcore Spike Lee fans may not know: the “Do The Right Thing” filmmaker has been trying to make a film adaptation of George Gershwin‘s legendary 1935 American folk opera “Porgy And Bess” for over a decade now. Lee came close in the early aughts, but talks with the notoriously fussy Gershwin estate reportedly fell apart at the very last minute after what was allegedly was a lot of back and forth.
A famous 1959 version of the film was shot in 70MM and starred Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Pearl Bailey, and in 2011 it was chosen for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. But somehow, it’s impossible to find, and isn’t available anywhere on DVD. Why? Well, the Samuel Goldwyn project was beset with problems. Rouben Mamoulian was originally hired to direct the film, and was subsequently fired and replaced by the great Otto Preminger who has the film’s final screen credit. Several of the actors singing voices were poorly dubbed. The Gershwin estate was reportedly very disappointed with the finished product, and they removed the picture from release in 1974. Unless you catch it on TCM or bootleg, you’re not going to catch it at all.
Lee’s aspirations to adapt Gerswhin’s “Porgy And Bess,” set among the black residents of a fishing village in 1912 South Carolina, is somewhat the stuff of legend and is rarely reported on, and so those in the know perked up when Lee finally went to go see the 2012 Broadway revival “The Gershwins’ Porgy And Bess.” “Porgy and Bess Is Great. Audra McDonald As Bess, Norm Lewis as Porgy And My Man David Alan Grier as Sportin’ Life. C’mon Folks CHECK THIS OUT,” he wrote on Twitter (the revival was nominated for 10 awards in the 2012 Tony Awards). So when The Playlist sat down with Lee this week to discuss his latest film, “Red Hook Summer,” we couldn’t help but ask about “Porgy And Bess.”
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