African-American actor/singer Paul Robeson had to travel to England in the 1930s to seek out dignified film roles. In Big Fella, Robeson is a happy wanderer who chances upon a runaway child. The kid so enjoys the company of Robeson and his café-singer friend Elisabeth Welch that he threatens to claim that he's been kidnapped if Robeson tries to return the boy to his parents. Interestingly, Robeson's character name is Joe, just as it had been in the actor's 1936 Hollywood triumph Show Boat. Big Fella was based on a novel by Claude McKay.