The Emperor Jones

Adaptations

The play was adapted for a 1933 feature film starring Paul Robeson and directed by Dudley Murphy, an avant-garde filmmaker of O'Neill's Greenwich Village circle who pursued the reluctant playwright for a decade before getting the rights from him.

Louis Gruenberg wrote an opera based on the play, which was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1933. Baritone Lawrence Tibbett sang the title role, performing in blackface. Paul Robeson's 1936 film Song of Freedom features a scene from the opera with Robeson singing the role of Jones. This has sometimes resulted in a confusion that the 1933 film of O'Neill's play is a film of the opera.

In the UK, BBC Television produced an adaptation in 1938, starring Robert Adams, and another in 1953, starring Gordon Heath.

Several revivals were made in the 1950s when Robeson himself was blacklisted, denied his passport by the State Department and his films — including the 1933 film — recordings and performances were banned in the United States; these new productions were implicitly in defiance of the persecution and suppression of this great star by McCarthyism and the FBI from 1950 until 1958, and part of a worldwide effort of artists to lift the ban.

First, the legendary New York actor Ossie Davis starred in a television adaptation for the Kraft Television Theatre in 1955 — this at a time when black faces were rarely seen on American television sets.

In 1956 Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote a ballet based on the play that was commissioned by The Empire Music Festival of New York, and danced by José Limón's company — Limón himself a revered teacher at Juilliard and breakthrough performer of color.

A live British television production by Associated Television for the first season of its Armchair Theatre series was seen on UK television on March 30, 1958.[9] It features African-American actor Kenneth Spencer, and was directed by the Canadian director Ted Kotcheff and adapted by the American "beat" novelist Terry Southern in his first screenwriting job. Unlike other British television versions, it still exists, and has been released on DVD.

An experimental video by Christopher Kondek and Elizabeth LeCompte showcases the production of the play by the New York-based performance troupe The Wooster Group, starring Kate Valk and Willem Dafoe.


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