The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Buck And The Preacher (1972)

"Buck and the Preacher" (1972) was a western film starring Sidney Poitier in his directional debut. Co-produced by Poitier's E & R Productions and Belafonte Enterprises, the film also stars Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, James McEachin, Clarence Muse, and Cameron Mitchell. Ernest Kinoy and Drake Walker are responsible for the story and screenplay, and Columbia Pictures distributed the movie.

Black western movies have been a part of cinema since the early 1920s. Norman Studios (a.k.a Norman Film Manufacturing Company) introduced black westerns with their first production, "The Bull-Dogger," released in 1921, starring famed cowboy and rodeo performer Bill Pickett. Throughout the silent era of the 1920s, there were several Black cowboy movies produced. Other films included "The Crimson Skull" (1922), "The Flaming Crises" (1924), "A Chocolate Cowboy" (1925), and "Black Gold" (1928). Unfortunately, all the films mentioned are lost, damaged, or destroyed. However, a rebirth of the genre emerged in 1937 with Herbet Jefferies in "Harlem on the Prairie." Three additional films followed after that release, with Spencer Williams assisting with the writing and producing of several movies. In the 1940s, the production of black cowboy movies declined. However, in 1948 the first Race film and black western to receive technicolor treatment was "No Time for Romance."

In the 1950s and 60s, black westerns ceased. While black actors appeared in cowboy movies as supporting characters, filmmakers or studios did not produce black cowboy movies until "Buck and the Preacher" in 1972. The reappearance of this genre in Hollywood aligned with the newfound attitudes filmmakers were expressing. Most of the black cowboy movies in the 30s and 40s were musicals. However, in the 70s, the cowboys fought back against the white man. Poitier and Belafonte's character helps a group of freed enslaved people travel west to establish a new settlement. However, bounty hunters track down these groups, killing members and burning their possessions, but this time the black cowboys seek retribution.

This film is a great western with a distinguished cast. The storytelling is excellent, and it was a trendsetting movie. For example, Fred Williamson starred in the "N***er Charley" trilogy in '72, '73, and '75 as an escaped enslaved person. Max Julien and Vonetta McGee starred in "Thomasine and Bushrod," in 1974, adapted from "Bonnie and Clyde." And Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, and Jim Kelly appeared in "Take a Hard Ride" in 1975. Jim Kelly was a black kung-fu cowboy. I highly recommend "Buck and the Preacher" for viewing. Many layers exist in the movie and are worthy of discussion. 

Directors: Sidney Poitier, Joseph Sargent (uncredited)
Writers: Ernest Kinoy (screenplay), Drake Walker (story)

Starring Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Cameron Mitchell, Denny Miller, Nita Talbot, John Kelly, Tony Brubaker, Bobby Johnson, James McEachin, Clarence Muse, Lynn Hamilton, Doug Johnson, Errol John, Kenneth Menard, Pamela Jones, Drake Walker, Dennis Hines, Fred Waugh, Bill Shannon, Enrique Lucero, Julie Robinson, José Carlos Ruiz, Ron Fletcher

Following the end of the Civil War, soldier-turned-trail-guide Buck (Sidney Poitier) made a living by helping formerly enslaved people find settlements in the West. Along the way, a con artist, the Preacher (Harry Belafonte), joins the group and continuously clashes with Buck. But when a gang of bounty hunters, led by the fiendish Deshay (Cameron Mitchell), attempts to round up the formerly enslaved people to bring them back to Louisiana, the two put aside their differences to fight a common enemy.