An examination of the life of actor and singer Paul Robeson, from his first major triumphs on the stage in the 1920s through his gradually increasing social activism in the 1930s and 1940s,...
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An examination of the life of actor and singer Paul Robeson, from his first major triumphs on the stage in the 1920s through his gradually increasing social activism in the 1930s and 1940s, leading to his controversial performances in Eastern Europe in the 1940s in which he performed communist anthems and criticized American social conditions. Written by
Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist does some justice to the man
Having previously seen this short film about Paul Robeson's career during the late '80s on a VHS tape that also had The Emperor Jones on it, I just watched it again on a DVD disc from a set of selected films of Robeson. Sidney Poitier narrated about many of Paul's triumphs and trials. One of the most interesting of the chronicles was the differences between the original version of what would be his theme song, "Ol' Man River" and what it would become when taken out of the theatrical musical and '36 movie version. For instance, "N!ggers all work on the Mississippi" became "There's an old man called the Mississippi" by the time of the movie. When performing it in countries involved in conflict, "Get a little drunk and you land in jail" became "Show a little grit and you land in jail" and "I'm tired of livin' and scared of dyin'" became "We must keep fighting until we're dying". His performance in the play "Othello" is also discussed with film provided of an interview in which he discussed his interpretation of the role. Also, besides film of his concerts, are some of his movies shown in clips like Show Boat, his version of King Solomon's Mines, The Emperor Jones, and The Proud Valley. When some of his most outspoken political views became too much to bear, as evidenced by film footage of protests taking place at his concert in Peekskill in 1949, Robeson suddenly finds himself blacklisted which lasted most of the '50s. By the time it ended, he seemed broken but not completely defeated as evidenced by film of perhaps one of his last performances shown at the end. One hopes by the time he died in 1976, Paul Robeson didn't suffer too badly in his final days. Certainly in this day of Rap and Hip-Hop, one hopes some young people-especially those of his race-still have some appreciation for his music...
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