The Emperor Jones

Overview

Adapted by DuBose Heyward from a Eugene O'Neill play, Emperor Jones is one of Paul Robeson's earliest and most powerful leading roles. Railroad porter Brutus Jones Robeson leaves his girlfriend Dolly Ruby Elzy in favor of Undine Fredi Washington, but he soon leaves her too. Brutus is a master manipulator, liar, and swindler who murders his friend Jeff Frank Wilson over a crap game. He ends up on a chain gang, but escapes to Haiti where the white trader Smithers Dudley Digges buys his freedom. He then scams his ...
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Overview

Adapted by DuBose Heyward from a Eugene O'Neill play, Emperor Jones is one of Paul Robeson's earliest and most powerful leading roles. Railroad porter Brutus Jones Robeson leaves his girlfriend Dolly Ruby Elzy in favor of Undine Fredi Washington, but he soon leaves her too. Brutus is a master manipulator, liar, and swindler who murders his friend Jeff Frank Wilson over a crap game. He ends up on a chain gang, but escapes to Haiti where the white trader Smithers Dudley Digges buys his freedom. He then scams his way into a business partnership with Smithers and becomes rich. He plays tricks on the natives with a gun, proclaiming that only a silver bullet can kill him. The natives believe he is immortal and he declares himself emperor, holding a tyrannical rule over the people. They naturally revolt, and he is forced to escape into the jungle. Brutus disappears into the woods where he hears voices and sees visions, eventually leading up to his suicide.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Janiss Garza
With his overpowering charisma and deep, captivating voice, Paul Robeson leaves a haunting impression as the conniving, power-mad Brutus Jones in this film adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill play. While African-American critics of the day condemned the story's stereotypes (even while the African-American community itself embraced the film and Robeson), the truth is that none of the characters are really sympathetic, and that especially goes for Dudley Digges as slimy trader Smithers, the only important white member of the cast. The most unsympathetic character of all is Jones, who doesn't care whom he swindles, tricks, or murders to work his way up to influence and wealth. But as hateful as Jones is, Robeson also makes him fascinating. When the Emperor Jones creates his own downfall on the small Caribbean island he rules, Robeson's desperation and horror is chilling to watch (he's also helped in good part by the surreal cinematography of Ernest Haller, and the spooky, midnight-blue tinting of the black-and-white photography). For many years, The Emperor Jones was only available in truncated form because it had been edited for censorship reasons close to its release date (many of the racial epithets were considered extremely offensive). In 2001, the Library of Congress reproduced something close to the version that was originally released in 1933. As a result, this picture -- Robeson's talkie debut, and a minor classic -- can be seen with its full impact intact.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/24/2012
  • UPC: 874757025094
  • Original Release: 1933
  • Source: American Pop Classic
  • Time: 1:13:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 67,066

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Robeson Brutus Jones
Dudley Digges Smithers
Frank Wilson Jeff
Fredi Washington Undine
Ruby Elzy Dolly
George Haymid Stamper Lem
Jackie Mayble Marcella
Blueboy O'Connor Treasurer
Brandon Evans Carrington
Rex Ingram Court Crier
Technical Credits
Dudley Murphy Director
Gifford Cochran Producer
William C. DeMille Producer
Ernest Haller Cinematographer
DuBose Heyward Screenwriter
Rosamond Johnson Score Composer
Joseph I. Kane Sound/Sound Designer
John Krimsky Producer
Joseph H. Nadel Asst. Director
Herman Rosse Art Director, Set Decoration/Design
Frank Tours Score Composer, Musical Direction/Supervision
Grant Whytock Editor
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