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Classics and discoveries from around the world, thematically programmed with special features, on a streaming service brought to you by the Criterion Collection.
Directed by John Ford • 1960 • United States
Starring Woody Strode, Jeffrey Hunter, Constance Towers
In 1866, new fighting units comprised of African American recruits—nicknamed Buffalo Soldiers because of the bison coats they wore in winter—were formed within the United States Cavalry. Against this backdrop, legendary director John Ford crafts the story of Sergeant Rutledge (Woody Strode), a Ninth Regiment officer on trial for rape and murder. Lieutenant Cantrell (Jeffrey Hunter) defends Rutledge as witnesses give testimony (relived in flashbacks) revealing the sergeant’s gallantry—and the shocking truth behind the alleged crimes. Ford, who examined frontier racism in THE SEARCHERS, explores similar territory in this landmark western, the power of which still rings out with uncommon force decades later.
Please be advised: this film contains offensive racist language and racial stereotypes directed against Black and Native American people. For more information, we suggest watching film scholar and guest programmer Mia Mask contextualize the Black Westerns series in the “Introducing Black Westerns” program below.