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Original Carmen Jones Soprano Dies

September 15, 1985

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Muriel Burrell Smith, who created the title role of ″Carmen Jones″ on Broadway in 1943 and sang for other actresses in movies, has died at age 62.

The mezzo-soprano and actress, who made numerous records including several ″ghost-singing″ assignments, died at a local hospital Friday.

She appeared in 1953′s ″Moulin Rouge″ and sang the songs for a sound track that Zsa Zsa Gabor mouthed on the screen. She also sang the songs on the sound track for the role of Bloody Mary in the film ″South Pacific.″

But her biggest fame was overseas, where she spent much of her career after finding difficulties in this country because she was black.

She once said her race ″figured sub rosa throughout my career. I couldn’t do anything I wanted to do without tackling the race question.″

In 1956, she turned down an offer by Samuel Goldwyn to star in a film version of ″Porgy and Bess,″ explaining by letter: ″It doesn’t do the right thing for my people.″

Instead, she made ″The Crowning Experience,″ a film about the life of black educator Mary McCloud Bethune. The film, one of the first with a multiracial cast of equal billing, was credited with helping to integrate theaters in Atlanta and with easing racial tension there.

She got her start in 1937, at age 14, when she appeared on Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour. She attended Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music.

Last year she was awarded the National Council of Negro Women’s award for women in the arts.

A memorial service will be held Saturday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

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