Sergeant Rutledge

When: Sun., Oct. 13, 2 p.m. 2013

Having contended with charges of racism for a good part of his career (particularly toward Native Americans), director John Ford served up a pair of mea culpas during the home stretch of his career. 1964’s Cheyenne Autumn was a so-so attempt to make amends to the Indian nation; far better is 1960’s Sergeant Rutledge, Ford’s roundabout tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers. The central plotline concerns a black officer who’s accused of raping and murdering a young white woman. The military career of the accused, Sgt. Rutledge (an excellent Woody Strode), is impeccable, but that doesn’t stop a courtroom full of irate citizens from wanting to see him hanged for his heinous crimes. But Lieutenant Cantrell (underrated Jeffrey Hunter, a far better actor than “pretty boy” peers like Troy Donahue and Tab Hunter) believes Rutledge to be innocent, so he decides to defend him by methodically piecing together the events (shown in flashback) surrounding the murder. Suspense and social commentary mingle easily in this exciting drama, marred only by a rushed and unconvincing denouement.

Matt Brunson

Price: Free with museum admission ($8)

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