I Have always been keenly interested in this fine actor, singer, activist and all around genius since I learned about him when I was a kid.
BORN: April 9, 1898
DIED: Jan. 23, 1976
DIED FROM: Stroke
MARRIED: Once-Eslande Goode (1921)
CHILDREN: 1-Paul Robeson Jnr.
AFFAIRS: Numerous-most famous with co-star (in Othello), and white, Dame Peggy Ashcroft
KNOWN FOR: His strong leftist political beliefs; his pursuit for equality for all; Civil Rights; Deep, Rich Voice.
First of all, I do not agree with his fervid appreciation for that demon Stalin. I believe, since his dad was a former slave and Paul Robeson experienced racial hatred in the States, it led him to be open to other countries who did not deplore him even though Russia was responsible for millions of lives being destroyed because of their race. Robeson was (in)famous for not believing in Holodomor where 7 million Ukrainians died of starvation and disease in 1 year at the hands of Stalin nor the millions of Jews and others who criticized Stalinist Russia.
OK, that being said, I still admire this controversial figure who, despite knowing it would harm his career and himself, he stood up for what he thought was unjust like the States who refused to serve African Americans in most places, treated them like dirt and lynched many because these white S.O.B.'s are as bad as Stalin..sorry but they are for their hatred for another simply because of their skin colour.
This man could hold an audience with his great physique, standing at 6'3" and a powerful voice that commanded respect. He was admitted into the prestigious Rutgers University at just 17, became a star athlete in Football but was good in many other sports. He also became Phi Beta Kappa and was the class valedictorian. He became a lawyer but was met with major racial bias and, since he showed an interest in acting he took that route becoming famous on stage especially in Eugene O'Neill Plays and Shakespeare's Othello. His wife was his coach and mentor even after the affair with Peggy Ashcroft, who helped guide him until she died in 1965. He tried to bring dignity to his film roles and pushed for equality but stopped making films in 1942 until the African Americans have equal ground.
He sided with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War giving many concerts for them as well as the Moore Shipyard workers in California plus, of course, the Civil Rights movement. He was on Hitler's "kill" list when they thought they would be successful in taking over Britain (Robeson was living there for a while). In 1940, at his most popular, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel was the only one who would take him in but charged him an exorbitant rate and he had to sign under an assumed name, just because of his colour. Robeson decided to sit in the lobby every day for 2 hours to make it known he was staying there. Soon after, the hotel changed their tune.
This man spoke 20 languages, was blacklisted during the McCarthy era (no kidding) and dealt with depression and, possibly, schizophrenia. He tried to commit suicide when he was in Moscow and had to deal with electro-shock treatments, tons of pills and mental asylums. His son believed that it was the CIA and MI5 that were behind his dad's mental issues, giving him drugs, that created his mental state. This is unknown but he did suffer in his later years. I can't help but respect this man despite his liking of the evil Stalin.
1. Emperor Jones-1933
2. Sanders of the Rivers-1935
4. Song of Freedom-1936
5. Big Fella-1937
6. King Solomon's Mines-1937
8. The Proud Valley-1940
9. Tales of Manhattan-1942
Here he is in Showboat
I enjoyed learning about your star of the month Paul Robeson. I remember the name but didn't know a thing about him until now. My grandfather was born that same year, 1898. It's interesting that you admired Robeson for his Civil Rights activism in spite of the fact that he was a supporter of Stalin and a denier of the atrocities he wrought. I never knew anyone who spoke 20 different languages. It boggles the mind. I enjoyed Robeson's performance of "Old Man River" in the 1936 film Showboat. The "B roll" cutaway sequences are striking.
Thank you for teaching me about this complex 20th century super achiever, dear friend BB. Have a great day and I'll see you tamale!
He led a varied and rough life, a lot of it self-inflicted. Pretty serious to get on Hitler's hit list.ReplyDelete
Wow. I learned a lot here. Had never read anything about him before but was familiar with his acting.ReplyDelete
Hi Birgit ...my Dad was a great fan as well and I must have seen every film he made sat on Dads knee....that voice!...take care xxxReplyDelete
One of my Mum’s favourites too. I didn’t know about the mental health issues.ReplyDelete
I know the name, but I don't think I've seen any of his films.ReplyDelete
Serious hugs on the loss of your 4 legged family member. I know how hard that is. I'm so glad he had a wonderful life with you and your hubby.ReplyDelete
Also glad the first work a day went well.
Simply one of the most amazing voices in the history of recorded music. There truly has never been anyone else quite like Paul Robeson, as you have documented well here.ReplyDelete