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64 Ratings

The Emperor Jones

Directed by Dudley Murphy
United States, 1933


Of all Paul Robeson’s starring film performances, by far his most iconic was his breakthrough in the big-screen adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones, in which he plays Brutus Jones, a Pullman porter who powers his way to rule of a Caribbean island.

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The Emperor Jones Directed by Dudley Murphy

Critics reviews

Radically expanded in scope [compared to the play], the movie dramatizes much of what is implied or suggested in the play, invents new characters, scenes, and a decade's worth of backstory for Jones that simply doesn't exist in the O'Neill. Paul Robeson, brought into the production to reprise his role as Brutus Jones, was quite simply the best American actor alive at the time, and he captivates the eye and dominates the frame like a typhoon conquers a beachhead.
February 07, 2014
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The Emperor Jones is a difficult film to completely defend, especially after its opening credits of African tribesmen beating their drums is quickly followed by a scene of a black Southern Baptist church meeting, insinuating a spiritual connection. But Brutus in The Emperor Jones, despite its racial primitivism, stands up as one of Robeson's more nuanced characters.
September 10, 2012
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