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Big Fella (1937)

 |  Drama, Musical  |  1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 70 users  
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In this musical comedy, Paul Robeson stars as Joe, a Marseilles docker hired by a wealthy English couple to find their missing son. When Joe finds him, he learns he escaped of his own will,... See full summary »


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Complete credited cast:
Elisabeth Welch ...
Roy Emerton ...
James Hayter ...
Lawrence Brown ...
Eldon Gorst ...
Gerald Oliphant (as Eldon Grant)
Marcelle Rogez ...
Eric Cowley ...
Ferdy Oliphant
Joyce Kennedy ...
Mrs. Oliphant


In this musical comedy, Paul Robeson stars as Joe, a Marseilles docker hired by a wealthy English couple to find their missing son. When Joe finds him, he learns he escaped of his own will, and takes him to stay with a local singer. They offer him a refuge from his repressed white parents. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Musical





Release Date:

1939 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


from "Orpheus in the Underworld"
Music by Jacques Offenbach
Played in the cafe
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User Reviews

Robeson unmissable, but criminally wasted
1 July 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The great Paul Robeson sings several songs in this British comedy, but the plot and production values are so modest as to be almost nonexistent. "Marseilles" is clearly no further south than an English studio, and is full of cockneys. Robeson's character is asked by the police to help find a missing English boy (who, when he turns up, is such a brat with such a precious public-school accent that you want him to get himself lost again). He agrees and turns to leave, but the policemen point out that he will need to know what the boy looks like and give him a photograph! Why is Robeson, who was a brilliant student as well as a singer (he graduated from law school at the top of the class) portrayed as an idiot? The songs are lacklustre and lazy--"scheming" rhymes with "dreaming," etc. and, when not singing them, Robeson, although nominally a waterfront worker, never does anything except sit on a barrel at the dock or drink in a café where Elisabeth Welch sings. It is delightful to see her at the beginning of her career, not only for her singing but her appealing, warm personality, but, again, the script is so simpleminded that she is not well used.

All the characters just have one trait each, which they tiresomely display over and over, and the humour is elementary. One rough, tough character is ridiculed over and over for having a kitten that he cares for. What's so funny about that? When the boy is reunited with his parents, none of the issues that led to his running off is touched upon, much less resolved.

But, but, but--there is Robeson, and when he sings, "Oh, my baby, my curly-headed baby," you just melt. What a crime that one of the few film documents we have of this great man and his gorgeous voice is so feeble, but it is an even worse crime that America's racism prevented Robeson from having the memorials he deserved.

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