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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sergeant Rutledge (1960)






















Starring:
  • Woody Strode
  • Jeffrey Hunter
  • Constance Tower
IMDB.com
Lieutenant Tom Cantrell is sent to defend Sergeant Braxton Rutledge, a black cavalry soldier, on a charge of rape and murder. The story begins in a courtroom and it is told through flashbacks. This is a story of how a black soldier in the face of danger from the Indians can be so easily mistaken as a criminal.

I first caught the tail end of this John Ford masterpiece on AMC during Black History month, and couldn't wait for it to pop up on the schedule again so I could see the whole thing. I couldn't believe I had never heard of this film before, and after I did some research and discovered how reviewers in 1960 had dismissed it, I understood why. They went expecting To Kill A Mockingbird and got Breaker Morant instead. Ford was WAY ahead of his time with this one. Woody Strode, who plays the title character, helped break the color barrier in professional football years before Jackie Robinson did so in baseball. And he broke some huge barriers in this film, too. Every young black man -- heck, every young American male today -- should be required to watch this film. As Strode later said, Ford and script writers "put classic words in my mouth." Words that would be echoed three years later by Dr. Martin Luther King in his immortal "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln memorial.

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