Carmen (1915 Cecil B. DeMille film)

Carmen is a 1915 American silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille.[2] The film is based on the novella Carmen by Prosper Mérimée. The existing versions of this film appear to be from the re-edited 1918 re-release.[3]

Carmen (DeMille) film poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byCecil B. DeMille
Written byWilliam C. deMille
Based onCarmen
by Prosper Mérimée
Produced byJesse L. Lasky
Cecil B. DeMille
StarringGeraldine Farrar
CinematographyAlvin Wyckoff
Edited byAnne Bauchens
Cecil B. DeMille
Music byHugo Riesenfeld
Samuel L. Rothafel
Lasky Feature Play Company
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • October 31, 1915 (1915-10-31)
  • November 1, 1915 (1915-11-01) (general release)
Running time
65 minutes
(4512 feet: 5 reels)
57 minutes (edited 1918 re-release)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish intertitles
Box office$147,599[1]


Don José, an officer of the law, is seduced by the gypsy girl Carmen, in order to facilitate her clan's smuggling endeavors. Don José becomes obsessed, turning to violent crime himself in order to keep her attention.



DeMille had intended to film a musical version of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, but its libretto was under copyright so DeMille instructed his screenwriter brother William to base his scenario on the public domain novella Carmen by Prosper Mérimée. The novella's Carmen was more wilful and manipulative than the opera version. For instance, William included a cigarette factory fight scene from the book which was not found in the opera.[4][5]

Composer Hugo Riesenfeld arranged the orchestral score, his first of many for film, which was based on that of Bizet's opera. It was performed at the premiere and other prestigious screenings.[6] There have been two restorations of Riesenfeld's score: the first was by Gillian Anderson, recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1996.[6] Timothy Brock recorded the second in 1997 with the Olympia Chamber Orchestra. Both recordings have accompanied various releases of the restored film on home video.[7]


Carmen was praised as a "triumph of superb acting and magnificent scenery" in Motion Picture Magazine. "No small share of this artistic success is due to Mr. Wallace Reid's sympathetic interpretation of Don José," they added.[8] "The 'Carmen' film will, in its own way, stand alongside 'The Birth of a Nation' as an epochmaker," Photoplay said in their review. One of their few complaints was on the film's faithfulness to Carmen's character of the Mérimée story.[9]

The New-York Tribune described it as "The most interesting example of the new art of the photoplay. Miss Farrar's personality is admirably suited to the screen, and her facial expression was excellent."[10] "Geraldine Farrar's 'Carmen' makes as dramatic an appeal to the eye as her voice ever did to the ear," said The San Francisco Call & Post, "The resolution of Geraldine Farrar, the beautiful and gifted star, to employ her talents in the attaining of success in the films is one of the greatest steps in advancing the dignity of the motion pictures. Miss Farrar's 'Carmen' in the films is the greatest triumph the motion picture has yet achieved over the speaking stage."[10]

Geraldine Farrar came in fourth place in the 1916 "Screen Masterpiece" contest held by Motion Picture Magazine for her performance as Carmen, with 17,900 votes. She was the highest ranking actress and was behind Francis X. Bushman in Graustark, Henry B. Walthall in The Birth of a Nation, and the number one winner, Earle Williams, in The Christian. Theda Bara's performance of the same role received 9,150 votes.[11]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Birchard, Robert S. (2004). "16. Carmen". Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813138299.
  2. ^ "Progressive Silent Film List: Carmen". Silent Era. Retrieved May 15, 2008.
  3. ^ Higashi, Sumiko (1994). Cecil B. DeMille and American Culture: The Silent Era (University of California Press), p. 217. ISBN 0-520-08557-4. Anne Bauchens' credit as a co-editor on this film is consistent with a 1918 release date for a re-edited version. After Carmen, Bauchens' next editing credit was the 1918 film We Can't Have Everything. The absence of editing credits for Bauchens on DeMille's 1916 and 1917 films would be surprising if the version of Carmen that she edited had been released in 1915.
  4. ^ Birchard, Robert S. (2009). Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. p. 141. ISBN 9780813138299.
  5. ^ Anderson, Gillian B. (2005). "Geraldine Farrar and Cecil B. DeMille". In Christopher Perriam, Ann Davies (ed.). Carmen: From Silent Film to MTV. Rodopi. p. 26. ISBN 9789042019645.
  6. ^ a b Anderson, Gillian B. "Carmen". Gillian Anderson, conductor. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  7. ^ "Charlie Chaplin Collectors' Guide: A Burlesque on Carmen (1915)". Brenton Film. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Naylor, Hazel Simpson (January 1916). "As Others See You". Motion Picture Magazine. Chicago: Brewster Publications. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  9. ^ Johnson, Julian (November 1915). "The Shadow Stage". Photoplay. New York: Photoplay Publishing Co. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Newspapers of the Nation Praise Production". Motion Picture News. New York: Motion Picture News, Inc. November 6, 1915. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  11. ^ "Screen Masterpieces". Motion Picture Magazine. Chicago: Brewster Publications. May 1916. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  12. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 18, 2016.

External linksEdit