Though often pigeonholed as one of Ford's late trio of guiltily amends-making movies (to blacks here; to Indians in Cheyenne Autumn; to women in Seven Women), Sergeant Rutledge is both more complex and infinitely more confused than that simplistic formula would suggest. Possessing in broad outline an integrationist perspective (at a time when the Civil Rights movement was gaining strength), it's riddled with liberal compromises and evasions with its portrait of Strode's dignified black cavalry sergeant on trial for alleged miscegenatory rape. Ford can show us an innocent victim of American racism, and stress in courtroom flashbacks his heroic credentials in white man's uniform, but he can never make the leap to offering us a black who actually rejects the role of honorary white. He can make the cinepolitical connection back to The Birth of a Nation (by the bit-casting of Mae Marsh, the rape victim in Griffith's film) and consider his film compensatory, but he can't confront the cultural fear of miscegenation that mechanises both movies, only its distorted expression.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||James Warner Bellah, Willis Goldbeck|