American Playhouse (1981– )
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Porgy and Bess 

The story of a disabled beggar in Charleston, S.C. who falls in love with a prostitute, this is the first filmed version of Gershwin's opera which uses Gershwin's own orchestrations and ... See full summary »


Trevor Nunn


DuBose Heyward (libretto), DuBose Heyward (based on the play by) | 3 more credits »

On Disc

at Amazon

Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Willard White Willard White ... Porgy
Cynthia Haymon Cynthia Haymon ... Bess
Gregg Baker Gregg Baker ... Crown
Cynthia Clarey Cynthia Clarey ... Serena
Marietta Simpson Marietta Simpson ... Maria
Damon Evans ... Sportin' Life
Paula Ingram Paula Ingram ... Clara, and singing voice of Annie
Harolyn Blackwell Harolyn Blackwell ... Clara (singing voice)
Gordon Hawkins ... Jake
Bruce Hubbard Bruce Hubbard ... Jake (singing voice)
Barrington Coleman Barrington Coleman ... Mingo
D. Alonzo Washington D. Alonzo Washington ... Robbins
Johnny Worthy Johnny Worthy ... Robbins (singing voice)
Curtis Watson Curtis Watson ... Jim
Mervin Wallace Mervin Wallace ... Peter


The story of a disabled beggar in Charleston, S.C. who falls in love with a prostitute, this is the first filmed version of Gershwin's opera which uses Gershwin's own orchestrations and practically all of the music, with only one major cut. Written by Albert Sanchez Moreno

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

6 October 1993 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Contrary to what some reviews say, this production was videotaped, not filmed, and taped not on location but entirely on studio soundstages. See more »


Sportin' Life: [singing] It ain't necessarily so!
Chorus: [singing] It ain't necessarily so!
Sportin' Life: [singing] The things that your li'ble To read in the Bible, It ain't necessarily so!
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I Loves You Porgy
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Sung by Cynthia Haymon and Willard White
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Exceptional Production of an Exceptional Work
16 August 2010 | by jhgilesSee all my reviews

This production is a collector's item. Stage or other productions of Porgy and Bess are rare.

I concur in the reviews above except the first, which I find a bit too demanding. The production, due to the curious solution regarding the casting, really can't be considered as "perfect," but it is truly remarkable. It is otherwise as good as a television adaptation of an opera can get. Will anyone ever attempt Scott Joplin's Treemonisha?

To answer one concern, that it is overly romantic? Well, yes, the story is indeed romantic --- the essence of the story is a romance. One could remark that the setting is "romanticized," not truly representative of the Low Country Gullah culture, but this interpretation seems too limiting and unappreciative of the contributions of Gullah culture which Heyward and the Gershwins sought to reflect. The wonderful stories of The Song of the South (which are based on Gullah stories) have been basically lost due to the virtual "blacklisting" of that production. It does thankfully seem that Porgy and Bess has avoided this obstacle.

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