Rufus Jones for President (1933) Poster

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Ethel Waters- Truly a Black Legend!
msladysoul9 July 2002
Ethel Waters is great in this short film. She sings some great song, probably white people will take offense to one of her songs "Underneath our Harlem Moon", but black folks understand it. Ethel Waters sit the standards in music and movies for blacks, she was one of the first blacks to sing on white radio, her songs were sung by everyone, she was praised by both black and whites, her voice appealed to everyone. Sammy Davis Jr. is great, he's young, but its evident to see why he made it. You think Michael Jackson and Frankie Lymon was great, well Sammy Davis Jr. is great in this, not shy at all. Great dancing and singing by well-known singing of that time. Check this one out if you can. Turner Classic Movies shows if from time to time, search hard for this one, but when you'll find it, you'll treasure it.
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Historical sociological milestone worth preserving
jeannine-1722 January 2009
Given the opposite circumstance of 2009 where the reality is we do have a black president, this movie takes on quite a powerful historical significance. For entertainment value I found this movie to be both engaging and repugnant. I was quite taken back of course by the blatant racism of the time, but also found the music and dancing incredible. Also it is quite cool to see Sammy Davis Jr as such a very young child actor. He plays Rufus Jones, a young boy who is being consoled by his Mammy. He is told 'Why some day you could be President'. This was so ridiculous in 1933 that it was mocked and thought to be endearing, charming and funny. The bulk of the movie is a fantasy sequence of what the government would be like if it was run by a black man. They depict the seats of government as being like a revivalist Baptist church. The fact was when I stumbled onto this movie one day it drew me in. It is really well done and very entertaining. I believe if we can look beyond the racism we can see this movie for all it brings us. In fact to realize that it is not only not ridiculous to have a black president, but that it is normal, just makes this movie that much more relevant. It clearly marks a moment in time for our collective consciousness.
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Judge the movie in the context of its time, not yours
LyonME2 November 2008
I turned this on to see the incredible Ethel Waters, whose autobiography I am now reading. I'll admit my jaw dropped when the pork chops and watermelon references started rolling in, but people cannot look at this movie as a stereotypical or racist piece. It's pretty much a short film made by blacks, for blacks at a time when the entertainment industry was quite segregated and the stereotypes to the people involved were the jokes of their time, old trends exaggerated for humor. We see modern black movies do the same thing, but with the new trends (stereotypes), "ho's" and the "hood" and such. I think if you look back in eighty years, you would find today's movies will look just as racist. What viewers should appreciate about this film is the talent of Waters and the pint-sized Sammy Davis Jr., who out taps his contemporary, Shirley Temple, and looks remarkably the same facially as he did as an adult. Everyone involved in this film clearly had a lot of fun making it. Why not enjoy it for what it is, instead of what you think it should have been?
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Take a deep breath and relax before you put this in your DVD player...I'll explain why...
MartinHafer27 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is a product of its time. Because the 1930s was a rather racist period in our history, the audience watching this film today might be apt to turn it off because of the negative stereotypes (and there are plenty). However, I advise you to take a deep breath (perhaps two) and then repeat to yourself 'I do NOT need to be 100% politically correct all the time--and if I do so with this film I'll be missing some great history'. Do this as many times as you need to...then turn on the film! Why do I say this? Well, because you'll hear about 'pickininnies' and see many black characters who are giant negative stereotypes (eating fried chicken and obligatory watermelons, shooting dice, carrying razors and the like). Again, just remind yourself that this is a time that has fortunately passed--and it's STILL a great chance to see some great entertainers of the day. The film begins with Ethel Waters yelling at her neighbor--who is yelling at Waters' kids. One of them (Rufus) is played by a very young and quite precocious Sammy Davis Jr.--and he's quite adorable. She sings him a song about 'staying on your side of the fence' and then tells him that perhaps one day he'll grow up to be president (a very progressive idea for 1933). Then, a dream sequence begins in which the very young Rufus is elected (don't ask how). Then we are treated to some great dancing from Sammy but unfortunately he also sings--and at this point in his life this was NOT his forte to say the least. It was after he was halfway through that I finally realized he was supposed to be singing the classic "I'll Be Glad When You Are Dead, You Rascal You". Waters sings one of her classics ("Am I Blue") and the singing by her and Davis' dancing are more than enough reasons to see this odd little film. The film is very peculiar but very watchable.
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What a shame to see such great talent squandered in this offensive, degrading short subject!
jkpr112 February 2002
While it is almost impossible to endure the horrible script, viewer patience is advised, because it's a thrill to see the wonderful Ethel Waters reprising her hit "Am I Blue?", then doing a segue into "Under a Harlem Moon." Her live singing, her concentration and empathetic interpretation gives one a sense of what it was like to have seen her on stage. This short was made in 1933, the same year Ms. Waters starred on Broadway in "As Thousands Cheer" - introducing Irving Berlin's "Heat Wave," "Supper Time" and "Harlem on My Mind." It was also just after she played the Cotton Club with Duke Ellington's orchestra, introducing another of her signature songs, "Stormy Weather." If only Vitaphone had filmed those performances instead of this racist stereotype garbage. (To give an example, the "Harlem Moon" number contains a lyric that goes, "That's why schvartzers were born.") The 8-year old Sammy Davis Jr. is nothing short of phenomenal, giving everything he's got in several song and dance routines. It's sad to realize that racism kept him from attaining the early stardom he so clearly deserved. TCM shows this short from time to time. If you chance upon it, try to ignore the stereotypes and enjoy the warmth, talent and dignity of two great African-American performers.
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Despite stereotypes, Rufus Jones for President is worthy for Waters and a very young Davis
tavm8 February 2008
Well, if it weren't for Ethel Waters and a 7-year-old Sammy Davis, Jr. (here billed without the Jr.), Rufus Jones for President would be one of the worst representations of African-American stereotypes I've seen from the early talkie era and wouldn't have been worth seeing because of that. Ms. Waters is excellent here singing "Am I Blue?" and "Underneath Our Harlem Moon" while Mr. Davis shows us how his childhood experience in showbiz prepared him for his superstar status as an adult. He's so good tap-dancing here that for awhile I thought he was a little person with decades of experience. So if you're willing to ignore the negative connotations here, Rufus Jones for President should provide some good enjoyment. P.S. This marks the fourth time today I've seen and heard the song, "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You" performed on film, this time by Davis. Must have been a very popular song about this time.
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Saved by Ethel Waters
TAYLOR BOWIE25 December 2003
This really is a wretched bundle of nasty racial cliches, but oh my, when Ethel Waters sings I can forgive and forget all the vile and mean-spirited muck around her. What a shame that this great artist had so few chances to be recorded on film in her prime as a singer...and when Ethel Waters was in her prime, she was Number One.
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One of the most offensive products ever turned out by Hollywood
Dick-427 January 1999
This must have been an embarrassment to every member of the entirely African-American cast. Every derogatory, disparaging stereotype of the black American community is featured prominently. I won't reinforce the insults by listing them here, except to mention chickens, watermelons, and dice. One good song by Ethel Waters (and a couple of bad ones), and the fantastic singing and dancing talents of 8-year-old Sammy Davis bring the total up to something below 1 on the IMDb scale.
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