Harry Belafonte | Credot: Sankofa.org
Harry Belafonte | Credot: Sankofa.org

Actor, musician, activist, and humanitarian Harry Belafonte will turn 90-years-old on March 1, 2017. In celebration, Museum of the Moving Image in NYC will pay tribute to his legendary career as an artist and activist, albeit about a month early, this Saturday, February 4, with a three-film retrospective and conversation with Belafonte’s friend, the best-selling author Walter Mosley.

The Harry Belafonte Pre-Birthday Celebration will feature screenings of “The Strolling ‘20s,” a television special produced by and starring Belafonte and featuring Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis, Jr. and more, that has hardly been seen in 50 years; Robert Altman’s “Kansas City,” which features Belafonte’s favorite of his own performances; and Otto Preminger’s classic “Carmen Jones,” in which he stars opposite Dorothy Dandridge.

This program is the fourth annual Black History Month collaboration between the Black Filmmaker Foundation and the Museum of the Moving Image and is organized and moderated by Warrington Hudlin, President of the Black Filmmaker Foundation and Vice-Chairman of the Museum of the Moving Image.

Previous programs include Massa’s Gaze, Endangered by the Moving Image, and The Color of Comedy. This program is part of the Museum’s ongoing series Changing the Picture, sponsored by Time Warner Inc.

Admission to Individual programs is $15. A day pass including admission to all programs is available to the public for $25 ($20 students/seniors). All events in the Harry Belafonte Pre-Birthday Celebration are free for Museum members at the Film Lover and MoMI Kids Premium levels and above. See below for schedule and descriptions.

All screenings take place in the Redstone Theater at Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Ave, Astoria, Queens, New York.

— “The Strolling ‘20s”
Produced by Harry Belafonte. Directed by Charles Dubin. 1966, 60 mins. Digital projection. With Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis, Jr., Duke Ellington, Gloria Lynne, George Kirby, Brownie McGhee, Sidney Poitier, Nipsey Russell. The great poet Langston Hughes wrote the script for this star-studded hour-long TV special that was designed to evoke the “tempo, feeling, and spirit of Harlem in the 1920s.” This was Belafonte’s first TV production, broadcast on CBS.

— A Conversation with Walter Mosley: The Living Legacy of Harry Belafonte
Walter Mosley, the prolific author best known for his Easy Rawlins mystery novels including Devil in a Blue Dress, will talk about his friend Harry Belafonte’s living legacy as an artist and activist, in a conversation with Warrington Hudlin.

— “Kansas City”
Dir. Robert Altman. 1996, 116 mins. 35mm. With Harry Belafonte, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Steve Buscemi. Robert Altman’s lovingly crafted film set in his hometown is a period gangster film, filled with jazz, kidnapping, drugs, and featuring Belafonte’s favorite of his film performances. As Roger Ebert wrote, Belafonte “shows a hard-edged side not often revealed in his performances, plays Seldom Seen as a wise, canny, proud black gangster.”

— “Carmen Jones”
Dir. Otto Preminger. 1954, 105 mins. DCP. With Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge. Following up on his successful 1953 screen debut Bright Road, Harry Belafonte co-starred again with Dorothy Dandridge in this early CinemaScope musical, which adapts the love story of Bizet’s Carmen to World War II. Belafonte plays the young soldier Joe and Dandridge is the alluring parachute-factory worker, Carmen Jones.