A minister is malevolent and sinister behind his righteous facade. He consorts with, and later extorts from, the owner of a gambling house, and betrays an honest girl, eventually driving ... See full summary »
An unimpressive but well intending man is given the chance to marry a popular actress, of whom he has been a hopeless fan. But what he doesn't realize is that he is being used to make the actress' old flame jealous.
At a Baptist prayer meeting, the preacher leads a prayer for Brutus Jones, who is leaving to become a railway porter. Jones joins the congregation in a spiritual. Once on the train, Jeff, a porter, shows Jones the ropes. Jones secretly takes up with Jeff's girl, Undine. He makes some money in a deal with a rich businessman on the train. Jones proves to be a cunning manipulator and a good liar. In a crap game, Jones stabs Jeff over a pair of loaded dice. Now doing hard labour, Jones kills a white prison guard and escapes. Shovelling coal on a ship in the Caribbean, Jones swims to an island. He is brought before the island's ruler, where Smithers, a crooked white trader, buys his freedom. Jones schemes his way into a partnership in Smithers' business, then finally control of the entire island through a touch of witchcraft, or so it seems. Brutus declares himself to be The Emperor Jones... Smithers reports on the unrest that Jones' rule is causing. One morning, the palace is empty of ...Written by
About a half-hour of completely original material was added to the movie adaptation in order to give the main character, Brutus Jones, a more detailed backstory, leaving only about 45 minutes from Eugene O'Neill's play. See more »
The 72-minute version has different opening credits. In the original version, the title reads "The Emperor Jones" in uppercase (capital) letters. In later prints of this film, including the 72-minute version nearly always screened on TV, the title reads merely "Emperor Jones" , in lowercase letters. See more »
Paul Robeson is the whole show in this version of The Emperor Jones
It's Black History Month, so I'm reviewing African-Americans on film in chronological order. It's now 1933 when actor/singer Paul Robeson accepted an offer to reprise his role as Brutus Jones in a film version of Eugene O'Neill's play. His character goes from porter, to convict, to emperor of an island in possibly too quick time during the movie though some of the dialogue does sometimes explain how much time has passed when those transitions occur. No matter, since Robeson is the whole show here and manages to be a very compelling presence whether singing or talking a long streak. And there are many good supporting turns by Frank Wilson as Jeff-a fellow porter who shows Brutus the ropes, Ruby Elzy as Dolly-Jones' first girlfriend at home, Fredi Washington as Undine-Jeff's girl who Brutus steals, and Dudley Digges as Smithers-a white trader Jones eventually partners with. Then there are cameos by the likes of Billie Holiday, Rex Ingram, Moms Mabley, and Harold Nicholas-who as usual dances here-that should provide some extra enjoyment for anyone curious about that sort of thing. While, like I said, transitions may not seem completely natural, this version of The Emperor Jones is worth seeing for Robeson's presence alone.
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