The More durable They Fall, the Black Western in theaters now and on Netflix on Nov. 3, owes a tip of the Stetson to Woody Strode, one of many NFL’s first Black gamers (he signed briefly with the Los Angeles Rams in 1946), who later discovered a distinct segment taking part in robust, silent varieties in Westerns.
Half African American and half Native American, Strode’s first massive break was in 1960’s Spartacus, because the Ethiopian gladiator whose demise sparks a insurrection. It was on the set of 1959’s Pork Chop Hill, a Korean Struggle movie, that Strode met John Ford (although Ford was not the director; Lewis Milestone and star Gregory Peck shared the credit score). Ford was so impressed with Strode, he gave him the starring function in 1960’s Sergeant Rutledge, a Technicolor Western a few U.S. Cavalry sergeant falsely accused of raping a white girl and killing her father. Warner Bros. wished Sidney Poitier, however Ford pushed again, saying he wasn’t “robust sufficient” to play Rutledge.
Launched two years earlier than To Kill a Mockingbird, Rutledge is among the first mainstream Hollywood movies to deal with racism frankly. Strode appeared in a number of subsequent Ford movies, although by no means in a starring capability. He served as a caregiver to Ford in his ultimate years and was at Ford’s deathbed in 1973. Strode labored in B-movies via the ’70s and ’80s and acted because the narrator for Mario Van Peebles’ Black Western Posse in 1993. He died the next 12 months at age 80.
This story first appeared within the Nov. 3 challenge of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click on right here to subscribe.