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Charles Gilpin
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Actor
    (November 20, 1878-May 6, 1930)
    Born in Richmond, Virginia
    Actor, singer, and vaudevillian dancer
    Birth name was Charles Sidney Gilpin
    Acted in Broadway plays, 'The Octoroon' and 'Abraham Lincoln'
    Acted in the films, 'Ten Nights in a Barroom' (1926) and 'The Scar of Shame' (1927)
    Best known for his performance as Brutus Jones in Eugene O'Neill's 'The Emperor Jones' play
    Founder of The Lafayette Players, an African-American theatrical group, in Harlem
    He began his career at 12.
    Moss Hart called him 'the greatest actor of his race.'
    He turned to alcoholism when his career nosedived.
    He was the toast of Broadway in the 1920s, but has largely been forgotten.
    He performed in white face to play the slave-owning villain in 'Octoroon.'
    He was also prone to wearing black face makeup when his skin tone was deemed too light for the characters he was playing.
    He originated the role of Brutus Jones on Broadway, but was passed over for both the London production and the film version.
    The part went to Paul Robeson, solidifying his stature as the most popular black performer in the US and abroad.
    His portrayal of Brutus Jones has been called superior to Robeson's, but without any existing footage to judge from, it is difficult to weigh this claim objectively.
    He got his start as part of the Canadian Jubilee Singers.
    He was a trailblazer for all major black performers to come in the 20th Century.
    He was honored at the White House by President Warren G. Harding.
    He was awarded the NAACP's Spingarn Medal (1921).
    He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame (1991).
    He was the most successful African American stage performer in the early 20th Century.
    His jobs on the side included a printer, barber, boxer, teacher and railroad porter.
    He was the first African-American to receive the Drama League of New York's annual award, for 'The Emperor Jones' (1920).
    The League's refusal to rescind the honor was deemed controversial for the period, as was Gilpin's refusal to decline it.
    He was given a standing ovation of unusual length when he accepted the Drama League's award.
    His fallout with Eugene O'Neill was rooted in his criticizing O'Neill's regular use of racial epithets in Brutus' dialogue (Robeson had no such qualms saying them).
    Harvard-educated critic, Alan Locke, was known to prefer Gilpin's playing Brutus Jones as a 'psychological study of mental instability,' as opposed to Paul Robeson's more heavy-handed interpretation.

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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