The Emperor Jones Screen 2 articles

The Emperor Jones

1933

The Emperor Jones Poster
  • 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.

  • 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.