Section One

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Carmen Jones
Dorothy Dandridge
Unidentified artist, 1954

Film poster advertising after World War II generally retained the photographic realism and unambitious designs of wartime messages. This poster, however, advertising Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones, an updated version of Bizet’s famous opera, stands out as an unusually successful example from the time period. The beautiful Dorothy Dandridge could both sing and act, and  she became the first African American to win an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

Unfortunately, what seemed to be the beginning of a stellar career was actually its climax, since good roles for black actresses were practically nonexistent in mainstream films. But every element of the poster for Carmen Jones—vivacious pose, life-size scale, ambiguous space, simplified color scheme, and jazzy lettering—adds to her glamour and promise.