Reviews

The Emperor Jones

4

A churchgoer becomes dictator of a Caribbean island via stints as a porter, gambler and chain-gang lag

The first mainstream movie to feature an African- American as its lead – and it’s a titanic turn, too. Athlete/ recording artist/activist/actor Paul Robeson is Brutus Jones, a churchgoer from the sticks who becomes dictator of a Caribbean island via stints as a porter, gambler and chain-gang lag. Director Dudley Murphy rolls out the lurid story with no-nonsense 1930s haste. Adapted from Eugene O’Neill’s play, the dialogue’s dated but the wily, burly Robeson lands every line with a whallop. Includes previously censored footage but no extras; nab Criterion’s Robeson boxset instead.

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