Muriel Burrell Smith, 62, the mezzo-soprano and actress who created the title role of "Carmen Jones" on Broadway in 1943 and sang for other actresses in movies, died Sept. 13 at a hospital here. The cause of death was not reported.
"Carmen Jones," based loosely on Bizet's "Carmen," premiered on Broadway in 1943. In Richmond, she had taught voice at Virginia Union University and gave the world premier of of "Sojourner Truth . . . Ain't I a Woman."
Miss Smith made numerous records, including several "ghost-singing" assignments. 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."
Her biggest fame was overseas, where she spent much of her career after finding difficulties in this country because she was black. In Britain during the 1950s, she was ranked among the leading recitalists, theatrical singers and chanteuses. 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 McLeod 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.
Miss Smith 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.
She leaves no immediate survivors.