The Emperor Jones

FERNANDO’s CORNER – Posted March 1st, 2015


I got my Criterion DVD Collection of Paul Robeson films and watched The Emperor Jones ( 1933 ) directed by Dudley Murphy, in which the larger-than-life Robeson plays a man from Georgia who leads an [un]eventful life and *** spoilers *** ends being the “master” of an Island.


EMPEROR JONES ( VI )Noteworthy supporting performances by Dudley Digges, playing a slimy character and the beautiful Fredi Washington, of Imitation of Life fame, who appears too briefly as Robeson’s flame.

But the movie is all Robeson’s and what a magnetic performer he was. If he hadn’t lived in those prejudiced times he could have become one of the biggest motion picture stars ever, because he had the acting talent of a Spencer Tracy and the magnetism of a Clark Gable.


He was truly grand and I am just discovering his talent. Previously I had only seen him in a supporting role in King Solomon’s Mines ( 1937 ). “The Emperor Jones” is very good, but being based upon an Eugene O’Neill stage play, towards the end, its stage origins become quite apparent. This last portion of the film is the weakest IMO, although Robeson delivers a tour-de-force monologue. Nevertheless brilliant.

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