Monday, June 13, 2016

Paul Robeson as Othello

Portrait of Paul Robeson as Othello
I just found some interesting facts about Paul Robeson's performance as Shakespeare's Othello that I thought would be fascinating to share today. This is from American Treasures of the Library of Congress:

A leading British Shakespearean critic, John Dover Wilson, called the performance of Paul Robeson the most notable Othello of the twentieth century.
With Peggy Ashcroft
The son of an ex-slave,Robeson became an All-American football hero as well as an actor and singer. He first played Othello in London in 1930, with noted British actress Peggy Ashcroft (1907-1991) as Desdemona. As the first time since the 1860s that a black actor had played the title role, the production marked a turning point that opened the way for other blacks to play the part. 
With Jose Ferrer and Uta Hagen
In 1943, Robeson played Othello in New York in a production directed by Margaret Webster and starring Uta Hagen (1919-2004) as Desdemona and her husband Jose Ferrer as Iago. According to the New York Times, Robeson "gave to the role a majesty and power that had seldom if ever been seen on the American stage. The performance won Robeson the 1944 Donalson Award (a forerunner of the Tony). 

After running on Broadway for 296 performances, longer than any previous Shakespeare play, the production made a lengthy and triumphant North American tour.

Robeson was truly a great actor, but I'm sorry to say I've only seen him in just a bit of The Emperor Jones when it was on TV one time. Have you ever seen any of his movies?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


shelly said...

I've never heard of him. So many tidbits of info are hidden right under our noses.

Maria McKenzie said...

So true!

Norma Beishir said...

I've heard of him. A very talented actor.

William Kendall said...

I have heard of him, yes. I remember a documentary in a series on Shakespearean plays in which actors (and directors) were focusing on one or two plays each, and one of them was Othello, so you were getting commentary from actors who have played the role on stage or screen, as well as the other characters in the play. It's a great, tragic part.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Norma: He was!

@William: It's a very tragic part! I think it's my favorite Shakespeare play, and hands down my favorite opera (by Verdi).