The Black Emperor of Broadway – Movie Review

TL;DR – A look at a revolutionary figure in Broadway’s past and the layers of oppression he had to go through to get where he did.     

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Warning – Extensive use of blackface

The Black Emperor of Broadway. Image Credit: Vision Films.

Review

If there is one large blind spot in my art history, it is Broadway. I didn’t come from a musical theatre background, so any introduction to this world is welcome. Today we look at a film that explores this through the life of Charles Sidney Gilpin one of its first Black stars. I should say that before we dive in as a bit of a warning that this is a film very much set in the 1920s and the language and depictions used in the movie are consistent with that time which may be difficult for some viewers.

So to set the scene, Charles Sidney Gilpin (Shaun Parkes) is working in a blackface minstrel show that goes around entertaining white people at parties. He hates the work and tries to get a job a legitimate actor which is difficult in a time when few roles are written for black men, and white people in blackface perform most of them. That chance finally comes when noted play write Eugene O’Neill (John Hensley) writes his newest play The Emperor Jones about a leader of Haiti and he wants Charles for the role.

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