Thursday, August 5, 2010
Woody Strode, was a decathlete and football star who went on to become a pioneering African-American film actor. He is probably best remembered for his brief Golden Globe-nominated role in Spartacus (1960). Strode made his first film performance in the film, in Sundown (1941). Woody Strode, became more active in the 1950s. He played dual roles (billed as "Woodrow Strode") in The Ten Commandments (1956) as an Ethiopian king as well as a slave, and in 1959 portrayed Private Franklin in Pork Chop Hill. He performed once on Johnny Weismuller's 1955-1956 television series, Jungle Jim.
Strode performed as villains opposite three screen Tarzans. Tarzan's Fight for Life(1958). He was cast opposite Jock Mahoney's Tarzan as both the dying leader of an unnamed Asian country and that leader's brother, Khan, in Tarzan's Three Challenges(1963). In the late 1960s, he performed in many episodes of the Tarzan television series.
He became a close friend of director John Ford, who gave him the title role in Sergeant Rutledge (1960). Shot on location in Monument Valley, Utah. The film starred Strode as a black first sergeant in the United States Cavalry accused of the rape and murder of a white girl at a U.S. Army fort in the late 1880s. His defense is handled by Lt. Tom Cantrel, Rutledge's troop officer. The story is told through a series of flashbacks, through the testimony of witnesses as they describe what happened. Circumstantial evidence all points to, Sergeant Rutledge.
He also performed in the Ford films, Two Rode Together (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Seven Women (1966).
Strode performed in the films, The Last Voyage(1960), The Professionals(1966), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Soon after, he performed in many spaghetti Westerns. His starring role as Patrice Lumumba, in Seduto alla sua destra (released in the U.S. as Black Jesus), the film is largely forgotten now. He remained a popular actor throughout the '70s and '80s, and has become widely known as one of the important black film actors of his time. His last film was The Quick and the Dead (1995).