The Legend of Woody Strode
Feb 11 — Mar 6, 2022
Woody Strode, the six-foot-four pioneering athlete turned movie star, was born in 1914, in South Central Los Angeles, to Black and Native American parents. A decorated football player at UCLA before joining teammate Kenny Washington in breaking the NFL’s color barrier in 1946, Strode eventually drew the attention of Hollywood. Initially cast on TV shows and movies playing shirtless Black stereotypes in action scenes, Strode graduated to speaking parts on Tarzan movies before landing key roles and stealing scenes in such films as Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus and John Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge. After working with Ford on three subsequent films and with Richard Brooks in the Oscar-nominated The Professionals, Strode finally rose to stardom in Italy in the late ’60s through the early ’70s, contracted to work on such films as Sergio’s Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West and Valerio Zurlini’s Black Jesus—his first top billing. Despite the lack of opportunities for actors of color, Strode left a legacy, one worth revisiting for the singularity of his onscreen presence. Whether he stands at the center of the screen or off to the side, whether he’s foregrounded or placed in the back of the frame, we always pay close attention to Woody Strode.
Organized by Eric Hynes, Curator of Film, and Edo Choi, Assistant Curator of Film.