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JANUARY 31-FEBRUARY 8
“Paul Robeson: A Portrait in Film”
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Before turning to the theater, Paul Robeson, the son of an ex-slave, triumphed both scholastically and athletically at Rutgers and earned a Columbia law degree. Though he was a success onstage and onscreen in the ’20s and ’30s, several trips to Moscow caused his fall from favor. The postwar anti-communist furor limited Robeson’s career to Europe, and he ended up with a Stalin Peace Prize instead of an Oscar. This series includes the actor’s film debut, 1924’s Body and Soul, in which he plays a devious preacher in what is apparently one of the better products of pioneering “race film” director Oscar Michaux (Feb. 7 at 3:20 p.m.). (Most of Michaux’s work has been lost.) It also features the cinematic version of Robeson’s defining stage role as Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones (pictured, Feb. 8 at 4 p.m.). Some of the other films find Robeson working in a South Wales coal mine (Proud Valley, Jan. 31 at 2 p.m.); playing an African leader in an English film whose depiction of colonialism Robeson found insulting (Sanders of the River, Feb. 1 at 4 p.m.); portraying a London stevedore who traces his roots back to Africa (Song of Freedom, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.); and singing his way through a comic search for a lost boy on the Marseilles waterfront (Big Fella, Feb. 8 at 5:20 p.m.). At the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th & Constitution Ave. NW. FREE. (202) 737-4215. (Mark Jenkins)