Paul Robeson

  1. Rex Ingram, The Green Pastures, 1935.     First, Warner Bros actually wanted De Lawd to be played, oh, ho, by Al Jolson in his blackface. D’oh ! Next, Paul Robeson refused point-blank. Finally, the nearly four-minute trailer was devoid of black faces, just a lot of white film-makers and a long shot of black extras. For a film of a black take on the New Testament. How’s that for believing in your product?
  2. Rex Ingram,  Cabin in  the Sky, 1942.       There was talk of Robeson playing Lucius, aka Lucifer Jr.   Ultimately, LB Mayer stuck with the Broadway stars: Ingram and Ethel Waters. This was supposed to be the first of three black MGMusicals. Porgy and Bess  was due next. Never happened.  Nor did Robeson in the movies.  After being rejected not for being black but, allegedly, red.
  3. Sidney Poitier, Porgy and Bess, 1958. Columbia’s hated czar, Harry Cohn, wanted – incredibly – to do it in black-face. With Fred Astaire as Sportin’ Life opposite Al Jolson’s Porgy and Rita Hayworth’s Bess! Said the Gershwin brothers: “Get outa here!” Columbia gave up and sold its rights to Fox which, correctly wanted Paul Robeson and then sold it all to be Samuel Goldwyn’s final production starring Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge. Like Harry Belafonte, Sidney had wish perpetuate black stereotypes on-screen. However, friends advised him that a new guy rejecting the great Goldwyn could be career suicide.

 Birth year: 1898Death year: 1976Other name: Casting Calls:  3