American Masters: Paul Robeson - Here I Stand (1999)
**** (out of 4)
Excellent documentary taking a look at the life, career, highs and lows of Paul Robeson, a multi-talented man whose career would eventually fall apart due to some controversial comments. Clocking in a few minutes of two-hours, this documentary really does a superb job in regards to telling one just about everything they'd want to know about Robeson. There's no question that this man led a full life, which included playing football, becoming a lawyer, finding success on the stage, film and in concert halls before it all went away and he spent ten years not being able to make a dime before an eventual comeback. Outside of his movies and music, I really wasn't fully aware of everything that Robeson had done in his life. There were some terrific stories told here including the abuse that he took when he tried to join an all-white Rutgers football team and it's amazing to hear what the man did to finally break through. There's also some great stuff about why he quit his law firm and of course his big breakthrough into showbiz. Robeson's movie career gets quite a bit of the running time as the debate really heats up on the type of roles that blacks were offered back in the day. Some didn't like seeing the type of roles Robeson was playing in movies like SHOWBOAT but apparently the money was great. The majority of the second half deals with his controversial comments about WWII, his support of Russia and the eventual trouble it got him into where he pretty much lost everything and couldn't play a concert anywhere. Fans of Robeson should really enjoy hearing all of these stories and we get audio clips of his music, clips of his movies as well as an archival interview from the man himself. Harry Belafonte, Lloyd Brown (Robeson bio), William Rhodes (sports writer), Paul Robeson, Jr., William Greaves, Lloyd Richards and Pete Seeger are just a few of the people interviewed.
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