Big Fella

Big Fella is a 1937 British musical drama film directed by J. Elder Wills and starring Paul Robeson, Elisabeth Welch and Roy Emerton. It is loosely based on the novel Banjo by Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay.

Big Fella
Directed byJ. Elder Wills
Produced byHenry Passmore
J. Elder Wills
Written byIngram D'Abbes
Fenn Sherie
Based onBanjo
by Claude McKay
StarringPaul Robeson
Elisabeth Welch
Roy Emerton
James Hayter
Music byG. H. Clutsam
Wilhelm Grosz
Eric Ansell
Jack Beaver
CinematographyCyril Bristow
George Stretton
H.A.R. Thomson
Edited byBrereton Porter
Douglas Robertson
Release date
  • 8 April 1937 (1937-04-08)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Big Fella is set on the docks and streets of Marseilles. Paul Robeson stars in the leading role, as a street-wise but honest dockworker who struggles with deep issues of integrity and human values. Elisabeth Welch plays opposite him as a café singer in love with him. Robeson's wife, Eslanda Robeson, appears as the café owner.[1]


The movie received praise, particularly for the music, featuring Robeson and Welch, Robeson's performance.



  1. "MRS. ROBESON DOES EXIST". The Queenslander. 12 January 1938. p. 10. Retrieved 5 August 2012 via National Library of Australia.

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