Day 327-- Sergeant Rutledge (1960)

With all of the acclaim John Ford (justly) receives for his other films (namely the Searchers,
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, the Quiet Man), I'm surprised that Sergeant Rutledge somehow got lost in the mix.

Set in 1880s American west, the film is set during the court martial trial of Sergeant Braxton Rutledge (Woody Strode), a black cavalryman accused of rape and murder. Set to defend him is Lt. Tom Cantrell ('60s heart throb Jeffrey Hunter), who insists on Rutledge's innocence. The story unfolds through flashbacks as the various witnesses take the stand.

The movie was controversial upon its release; the nature of the crimes in the movie--though handled delicately--aren't glossed over. And despite the fact that Hunter got top billing, Strode gets the bulk of the screentime in the movie--every time he's on the screen he's mesmerizing. Considering that this was made before the dawn of much of the civil rights action, that's saying something.

But the movie is quite good; the court room setting works quite well, and the acting is outstanding. (I was surprised at how few of Ford's 'stock company' were present, aside from Strode.) Ford's straight-faced sense of humor really worked this time too, and provided some genuine chuckles while not making light of the subject.

I've always said how Ford is easily one of my favorite filmmakers--his unadorned direction called attention to the story and the characters, and the little nuances he demanded from his actors paid off in the end. Rutledge is a prime example of all of the good things in a Ford film. In fact, I'd say it's almost Ford concentrate.


posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 7/29/2007 11:31:00 PM,


At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 4:14 PM, Blogger ~greg said...

Its been added to my queue


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