6.5/10
763
20 user 20 critic

The Emperor Jones (1933)

Not Rated | | Drama, Music | 29 September 1933 (USA)
Unscrupulously ambitious Brutus Jones escapes from jail after killing a guard and through bluff and bravado finds himself the emperor of a Caribbean island.

Directors:

Dudley Murphy, William C. de Mille (uncredited)

Writers:

Eugene O'Neill (play), DuBose Heyward (screenplay) (as Du-Bose Heyward)
Reviews

Watch Now

With Prime Video

ON DISC
ALL
1 win. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Body and Soul (1925)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

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 »

Director: Oscar Micheaux
Stars: Paul Robeson, Marshall Rogers, Lawrence Chenault
Adventure | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

British District Officer in Nigeria in the 1930's rules his area strictly but justly, and struggles with gun-runners and slavers with the aid of a loyal native chief.

Directors: Zoltan Korda, Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Paul Robeson, Leslie Banks, Nina Mae McKinney
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A black British dockworker named Johnny Zinga becomes a famous singer and learns that he is the rightful king of the African island of Casanga.

Director: J. Elder Wills
Stars: Paul Robeson, Elisabeth Welch, Esme Percy
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

White hunter Allan Quartermain and his enigmatic guide help a young Irish woman locate her missing father in unexplored Darkest Africa.

Directors: Robert Stevenson, Geoffrey Barkas
Stars: Paul Robeson, Cedric Hardwicke, Roland Young
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

In a Welsh coal mining valley, a young man with a beautiful singing voice is called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice when a pit disaster threatens.

Director: Pen Tennyson
Stars: Paul Robeson, Edward Chapman, Simon Lack
Borderline (1930)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A negro woman having an adulterous affair with a white man causes his wife to go mad and re-enforces the towns-folk's prejudice against Negroes.

Director: Kenneth MacPherson
Stars: Paul Robeson, Eslanda Robeson, Hilda Doolittle
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A young man is warned by a captain about a temptress; nonetheless, he finds himself falling in love with her.

Director: Josef von Sternberg
Stars: Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill, Edward Everett Horton
Zouzou (1934)
Crime | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Zou Zou tries to help her childhood friend prove his innocence after he's accused of murder.

Director: Marc Allégret
Stars: Josephine Baker, Jean Gabin, Pierre Larquey
Dark Sands (1937)
Drama | Musical | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

During WWI, action hero Robeson escapes an unjust death sentence to ramble around Arabia.

Director: Thornton Freeland
Stars: Paul Robeson, Henry Wilcoxon, Wallace Ford
Carmen Jones (1954)
Drama | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Contemporary version of the Bizet opera, with new lyrics and an African-American cast.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey
Virginia City (1940)
Certificate: Passed Action | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Union officer Kerry Bradford escapes from Confederate Prison and is set to Virginia City in Nevada. Once there he finds that the former commander of his prison Vance Irby is planning to send $5 million in gold to save the Confederacy.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Errol Flynn, Miriam Hopkins, Randolph Scott
Drama | Film-Noir | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Resentful of her small-town life, a married woman schemes to run off with a rich businessman.

Director: King Vidor
Stars: Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, David Brian
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Paul Robeson ... Brutus Jones
Dudley Digges ... Smithers
Frank H. Wilson Frank H. Wilson ... Jeff (as Frank Wilson)
Fredi Washington ... Undine
Ruby Elzy Ruby Elzy ... Dolly
George Haymid Stamper George Haymid Stamper ... Lem (as George Stamper)
Edit

Storyline

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 David Steele

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Music

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

29 September 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El emperador Jones See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$250,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (2003 restored) | (original)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

This film is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #370. See more »

Quotes

Smithers: If you had to recruit an army for him, why did you have to get such big blokes?
Brutus Jones: Yes, them is fine n******. I betcha they knows a man when they sees one.
Smithers: Well, if there's any trouble, you've only got yourself to blame... salutin' him and callin' him " General."
Brutus Jones: I tell you, Mr. Smithers. There's any trouble, you just leave the general to me. Us n****** understands each other.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Originally prepared at 80 minutes, the film was subject to censorship problems immediately upon release, and cut to 72 minutes. This 72-minute version was the only version available, until the Library of Congress restored the film to a 76-minute running time (and restored as well the original blue tint in the film's finale). Several minutes of the original release are still lost, presumably forever. See more »

Connections

Version of Kraft Theatre: The Emperor Jones (1955) See more »

Soundtracks

Daniel
(uncredited)
Traditional American spiritual
Sung by Paul Robeson and chorus on the island
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
An Interesting Failure
12 April 2005 | by gftbiloxiSee all my reviews

Playwright Eugene O'Neill's early work often combined memorable characters and stories with social commentary and innovative theatrical concepts--and among his first great successes was THE EMPEROR JONES, which starred perhaps the single finest black actor of the 1920s and 1930s, the legendary Paul Robeson. When United Artists purchased the screen rights, Robeson went with the package, and this 1933 film was the result.

The story concerns a black man of the depression era who lacks the moral stamina to resist the various temptations set before him, and who ultimately finds himself on a remote island where he uses his superior intellect and physically intimidating presence to set himself up as "Emperor." But his own past troubles have hardened him. Instead of ruling in justice, he uses his position to bleed the population--and they revolt against him.

But regretfully, this film isn't half as good as it could have been or a quarter as good as it should have been. On the stage, THE EMPEROR JONES had tremendous irony, for in so crushing his subjects Brutus Jones has essentially recreated the white American society that crushed him. Moreover, the staging was uniquely powerful, with the vast majority of the story played out as Jones runs through the jungle in an effort to escape his revolting subjects, all the while recalling the various events of his life that led him to the present moment. But the film version pretty much throws all of this out the window, preferring to downplay O'Neill's social commentary and reducing Jone's race through the jungle to a few scenes at the film's conclusion.

Robeson is a memorable actor, but he was still very new to the screen when this film was made, and although he is powerful his performance here is rather stagey in comparison with his later screen work. And while the film is occasionally interesting in a visual way, it simply doesn't have the courage to go all the way with O'Neil's original vision. Fans of Robeson, O'Neil, and early 1930s film will find it an interesting failure, but most others should give it a miss.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer


21 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 20 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed