Sergeant Rutledge (1946)
Monday, February 4, 2019
149 Maine St., Brunswick, Maine
“The greatest American political filmmaker, John Ford, relentlessly dramatized, in his Westerns, the mental and historical distortions arising from the country’s violent origins—including its legacy of racism, which he confronted throughout his career, nowhere more radically than in Sergeant Rutledge. Set in Arizona, in 1881, it’s the courtroom drama of a black soldier (Woody Strode) who is charged with raping and murdering a woman—a white woman. It’s more than a story of establishing the truth of this particular case and defying prejudice—it’s a story of the law’s systemic injustice and of deeply ingrained, unchallenged, and brutal extrajudicial constraints on the behavior of black Americans. Above all, it’s a story of terror—of the racist terrorism to which black Americans are subjected, and their bitter paradox of being citizens of a nation that keeps their prospects severely narrowed and repays them with hatred and contempt. Yet it’s also a military movie—the story of martial virtue and valor as the ultimate equalizer, the ultimate test of character. The contradictions at the heart of Ford’s work make him an artist of a seemingly comprehensive vision, make his films tragedies” - Richard Brody, The New Yorker.