- Rated: Not Rated
- Run Time: 1 hours, 16 minutes
- Video: Black & White
- Released: November 25, 2003
- Originally Released: 1933
- Label: Image Entertainment
- Encoding: Region 1 (USA & Canada)
- Packaging: Keep Case
- Aspect Ratio: Full Frame - 1.33
- Dolby Digital Mono - English
Performers, Cast and Crew:
USA Today - 02/16/1989
"...Paul Robeson's all-dominant screen personality comes through..."
Accomplished actor, singer, athlete, and scholar Paul Robeson debuts in this adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill play. Haughty and volatile, a Pullman porter's fiery disposition loses him his job and lands him in jail. While on the chain gang, he kills a white guard and escapes, retreating to Haiti where he overthrows the monarch and crowns himself Emperor Jones. According to historian Donald Bogle, Washington had to wear heavy makeup and darken her fair complexion as producers were concerned white audiences would think Robeson was playing a romantic lead opposite a white actress. Screenwriter DuBose Heyward also wrote Porgy, on which Porgy and Bess was based.
Description by Image Entertainment:
In the key role of his career, Paul Robeson repeats his powerful stage portrayal of Brutus Jones, a railroad porter who becomes the ruler of a remote Caribbean island, a story loosely patterned after the life of Haitian emperor Henri Christophe. The underlying 1920 Eugene O'Neill play was one of the first to portray the black man as an individual rather than as a stereotype. Jones deals with whites on his own terms - sometimes even contemptuously, as in his dialogue with the white trader superbly played by Dudley Digges. Jones' eventual downfall comes as the result of his own fears, rather than any other cause. As in other sound films starring the acclaimed baritone, Robeson has two songs. "Let Me Fly" and "Water Boy". This version, never before available on video, has been newly restored by the Library of Congress using elements from several archives and collectors and includes a color sequence original to the film.
Black Heritage |
Character Study |
Essential Cinema |
Rags To Riches |
- THE EMPEROR JONES was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1999.
- According to historian Donald Bogle, actress Fredi Washington had to wear heavy makeup and darken her fair complexion. Producers were concerned white audiences would think Robeson was playing a romantic lead opposite a white actress.
- Screenwriter DuBose Heyward, wrote "Porgy," on which "Porgy and Bess" was based. He also wrote the book "Mamba's Daughters," later adapted into a Broadway play.