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September 2021 SOTM: Paul Robeson


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I'm all for this, but it's even tougher to program than Dorothy Dandridge month. His film career was slight compared to his stage and concert careers and his activism.  Plus he left films voluntarily in the early 1940's out of frustration and was blacklisted in the 1950's, which would have kept him out of films even if he'd wanted to do them. I'm sure they'll enlist Donald Bogle again to sort through it all and provide some context and, since it's Sunday nights, Jaqueline Stewart will probably help as a lead-in to her Sunday Night Silents. The one I'm looking forward to is Song of Freedom because I understand he played an international opera star who returned to "his people" in Africa, so I suppose it's how well that section of the movie was handled which determined how successful the movie really is. A lot seems to be hanging on the two TBA's, one of which appears to be the only programming for that evening. Robeson was essentially a live performer who appeared in some films, so TCM will have to be imaginative in how this tribute month is packaged and presented. I wouldn't consider a documentary film to be out of place if they decide to go that route. But I applaud them for tackling it. Robeson was a towering figure and deserves the recognition. 

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My Dad's cousin knew Robeson's son.  He was a triple threat or quadruple threat:  He could have become a Supreme Court Justice, tremendous singer/actor (my Mom might have seen him do Othello), plus he was a great athlete.  He eventually became a Communist and moved to Europe as persona non grata.  I would love to see TCM do a documentary about him as part of their summer under the stars (but no astrological signs).

Harry Belafonte, Louise Beavers, Denzel, Woody Strode (missed that above), Whoopi Goldberg all have at least two films.  Harry Belafonte is still around (although his activist friends aren't - Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee).  Talk to him (or Whoopi, Denzel) before it is too late.  One more I remember - great actor (who was black and Jewish - not converted like Sammy Davis Jr. (are they doing him? - love when you see him dancing as a child) is Yaphet Kotto.


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