In honor of Black History Month, this Saturday February 22 at 7pm the Liberty Theater is proud to present a screening of the 1933 film The Emperor Jones, based on Eugene O’Neill’s first major hit play. The Emperor Jones was the first widely-released American film (i.e., not specifically targeted as a race film) featuring an African-American lead actor (and indeed, almost all of the cast), as well as Paul Robeson’s first notable film role. The New York Times review at the time stated “It is a distinguished offering, resolute and firm, with a most compelling portrayal by Paul Robeson of the ambitious Negro Pullman porter, Brutus Jones.” While some elements of the film have not aged well, it marks a milestone in African-American film history.
Local artist Rachel Malcolm Ensor will introduce the film with commentary putting it in historical and cultural context, and lead audience discussion afterwards. Rachel has lectured in the Honors Program at James Madison University on African Diaspora and Cinema History, and at SIU in the Cinema and Photography Department and in the History Department.
Doors will open at 6:30pm, and admission is free. Donations to the theater are as always freely accepted.