The Law of Contact

The Emperor Jones (September 29, 1933)

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Emperor Jones
 

Released on September 19, 1933: (running time 75 minutes) A black man learns business strategies from the head of a railroad line while working as a Pullman Porter, and later becomes the Emperor of a small Caribbean Island.

Produced by Gifford Cochran and John Krimsky

Directed by Dudley Murphy

The Actors: Paul Robeson (Brutus Jones), Dudley Digges (Smithers, Jones' partner), Frank H. Wilson (Jeff), Fredi Washington (Undine, Jones' girlfriend), Ruby Elzy (Dolly, Jones' wife), George Haymid Stamper (Lem, island General), Brandon Evans (Carrington, President of the railroad), Taylor Gordon (stick-man), Billie Holiday (extra in night club scene), Rex Ingram (court crier for the General), James P. Johnson (pianist), Moms Mabley (Marcella), Harold Nicholas (young tap dancer), Blueboy O'Connor (treasurer), Fritz Pollard (extra in nightclub scene), Lorenzo Tucker (extra in nightclub scene)

 

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Nerve, Brains and a Silver Bullet Charm

Fast Facts: Instead of creating a ‘teaser’ story to induce you to watch this movie, I will only present a few facts about this tremendously controversial movie that shook our nation when it was released. This movie was and still is so controversial that you may never see it anywhere but here.

• Billie Holiday appeared on the movie screen for the first time as an extra in the nightclub scene.

• Paul Robeson made his motion picture debut in this story. He became the first African-American to have a leading man role in a major motion picture. With this movie, he became the first African-American to be shown bare-chested on screen. This movie is the first motion picture for an African-American actor to get top billing over a white actor.

• Paul Robeson later said, “I shall take my voice wherever there are those who want to hear the melody of freedom, or the words that might inspire hope and courage in the face of fear.”

• Fredericka Carolyn ‘Fredi’ Washington had to re-shoot her romantic scenes with Paul Robeson after having makeup applied to her skin that would make her appear darker-skinned because the Hays office thought she might be mistaken for a white woman. Because of her amazing acting talent she was coaxed by movie moguls to let them cast her as a white woman, promising to make her a superstar, but she refused. She said she would never take an acting job as anything but a black woman, saying, “I’m honest and because you don’t have to be white to be good.”

• In 1999 this movie was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for its historic significance.

• Because of controversial language and the screen dominance of an African-American actor, while the movie was praised by critics and reviewers, it did not enjoy a long run at movie theaters. More than forty African-Americans were lynched in Southern states the same week the movie was scheduled to appear. It was soon pulled from all theaters nationwide.

• This movie nearly disappeared forever until the Library of Congress managed to compile the complete movie from copies provided by several museums in the U.S. and Canada.

• In my humble opinion, good men and women of any heritage can find many reasons to hate this movie, or to appreciate and experience a slice of 1933 America during our continuing struggle to move beyond our brutal years of slavery and our bigotry for Americans of color.

Blueboy O'Connor
Blueboy O'Connor
Blueboy O'Connor
Blueboy O'Connor
Brandon Evans and Paul Robeson
Brandon Evans and Paul Robeson
Dudley Digges
Dudley Digges
Dudley Digges and Paul Robeson
Dudley Digges, Paul Robeson and the silver bullet
Dudley Digges
Dudley Digges
Dudley Digges and Paul Robeson
Dudley Digges and Paul Robeson
Dudley Digges and Paul Robeson
Dudley Digges and Paul Robeson
Frank H. Wilson
Frank H. Wilson
Frank H. Wilson
Frank H. Wilson
Fredi Washington
Fredi Washington
George Haymid Stamper
George Haymid Stamper
George Haymid Stamper
George Haymid Stamper
Harold Nicholas
Harold Nicholas
Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson and Brandon Evans
Paul Robeson and Brandon Evans
Paul Robeson and Dudley Digges
Paul Robeson and Dudley Digges
Paul Robeson and Fredi Washington
Paul Robeson and Fredi Washington
Paul Robeson and Fredi Washington
Paul Robeson and Fredi Washington
Paul Robeson and Ruby Elzy
Paul Robeson and Ruby Elzy
Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson on the chain gang
Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson
Ruby Elzy and Paul Robeson
Ruby Elzy and Paul Robeson
Ruby Elzy
Ruby Elzy