By Stephen Bourne
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Extra resources for Black in the British Frame: The Black Experience in British Film and Television
There I was met by a deputation who wanted to know how the hell I had come to play in a film which stood for everything they rightly thought I opposed. That deputation began to make me see things more clearly. I hadn't seen the film. I was that interested. 22 In 1935 there was talk of Robeson making a film in Russia for Sergei Eisenstein (Black Majesty), but this came to nothing. However, he did succeed in appearing on the London stage in two plays with political themes: Basilik (1935), at the Arts Theatre, about an African chief who resists white rule, and Stevedore (1935), at the Embassy, about racial and trade-union conflict.
In the early part of the twentieth century, most working-class black people lived in communities in the dockland areas of Cardiff, Liverpool, Glasgow, Bristol and Canning Town in the East End of London. However, when Joseph Bruce came to Britain from Guyana, he differed from most of his contemporaries by making his home in a predominantly white community in Fulham, west London. When his daughter Esther was born in 1912, people of African birth or descent who lived in Britain at that time could be found in every social group.
22 Paul Robeson, The Cine-Technician, September—October 1938, pp. 74—5. 23 Paul Robeson, Film Weekly, 23 May 1936. 24 See Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in Americans Films (New York: The Viking Press, 1973), p. 137; and Lola Young, Fear of the Dark: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Cinema (London and New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 71-9. 25 Douglas McVay, The Musical Film (London: Zwemmer, 1967), p. 22. 26 Kenneth M. Cameron, Africa on Film: Beyond Black and Wliite (New York: Continuum, 1994), p.