The genre dates back decades, when movies were first released. made for a separate audience. "The Harder They Fall " nods to the past but takes on a whole new attitude.
The next Netflix western The Harder They Fall ”tells about a vendetta between the Nat Love Gang and the Rufus Buck Gang. As in many westerns, dueling outlaws hold deep grudges. They live outside of society polie. They shoot first and sometimes ask questions.
They are also all black, a fact that is not mentioned throughout the film. "The Harder They Fall ", made by Jeymes Samuel and featuring an impressive array of stars, does not use race as a medium for social commentary, as many black westerns have done. His radical bet is to remind us that there were black outlaws and lawyers, even though they were often bullied by the genre. The film makes its point through this cheeky cheekiness.
"This is a western about black people doing their own thing in their own space " Samuel, from London, said on a video call from Los Angeles. " It's awestern for us. We were ignored from the history of the Old West and the cinematic presentation of what the Old West was.
Samuel is right in that what we think of as classic classic westerns tend to be white affairs. On the fringes, however, the noir western is almost as old as the genre itself. Racing movies, or low budget movies made for black audiences during the Jim Crow era, frequently featured Western stories. Many of them were followed by Herb Jeffries , who often played a vocal cowboy in the mold of Gene Autry. Some of the films were quite current: In " Two Gun Man From Harlem ”(1938), a black man is framed by a white woman for the murder of her husband.
"These films are similar to Roy Rogers and Gene Autry films, which were very popular " said Rick Worland, film professor at Southern Methodist University of Dallas. "Basically they were black westerns " - kind of like "The Harder They Fall.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood western rarely did room for black characters. An exception was Woody Strode .
Former football star - he played alongside Jackie Robinson at the University of California, Los Angeles - Strode has become one of the favorites of Western King John Ford, who was sedified by the physique and the striking features of Strode. The parties could be humiliating; In Ford Who Shot Liberty Valance "The Man " (1962), Jimmy Stewart's Senator Yankee hands Strode's Pompey a wad of "pok chop money ". But Ford also put Strode on center stage in "Sergeant Rutledge " (1960), the story of a black cavalry soldier and former slave accused of raping a white woman and murdering her and her father . Image Woody Strode, right, confronting Jeffrey Hunter in "Sergeant Rutledge," directed by John Ford. Credit ... Warner Bros., via Everett Collection
When Samuel sees a movie like " Sergeant Rutledge "he notes that the Black character's presence has to be explained in some way. " Whenever they show a Black in a western somewhere along the line , they'll give a reason why this particular black man is in this town, "he said. " It's like, 'Oh, he belonged to Laura Ingalls ' "family, a reference to the author of "The Little House on the Prairie ". He added, "Come on man, can't we just exist in town? We can't just exist?
By the early 70s, and the advent of che Aply made Blaxploitation films, the rules and expectations had changed. "The goal of Blaxploitation was to produce this stuff very quickly," said Eric Pierson, professor of communication studies at the University of San Diego. "So you look for inspiration wherever you can. This often meant figenre lms, whether horror movies ( "Blacula ", 1972) or westerns.
Some 'them were quite good. In " Buck and the Preacher ”(1972), Sidney Poitier 's wagon leader and Harry Belafonte ' s crook come to the aid of freed slaves attacked by Vicious Labor Agents. As Worland pointed out, the white agents in "Buck and the Preacher " serve the same function as Native Americans in classic westerns. "The savages are essentially white racists, " he said. Worland said. "They rape women and kill children. They do whatever Indians are traditionally described as doing. Image "Posse " - with, from left to right, Stephen Baldwin, Big Daddy Kane, Mario Van Peebles (who directed), Tom Lister Jr., Charles Lane and Tone Loc - offers a history lesson with a measure of retribution. C redo ... Gramercy Pictures, via Everett Collection
This historic review and retribution continued in the 90s with “Posse” (1993) . Mario Van Peebles, son of Blaxploitation pioneer Melvin Van Peebles, directed and starred in this western about five Buffalo Soldiers of the Spanish American War who leave Cuba and return to the United States, where they end up defending a prairie town black against the Ku Klux Klan. The film begins with a lengthy introduction recited on camera by none other than Woody.Strode, who explains that Black Westerners did indeed help colonize the land and create the West.
"The Harder They Fall" begins with its own version of Strode 's introduction, processed in a few quick strokes with onscreen text: "While the events of this story are fictitious ... These. People. Exist. "
Indeed, they did. Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) was a true outlaw. Just like Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) The same goes for Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), Gertrude "Treacherous Trudy " Smith (Regina King), Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield), Jim Beckwourth (RJ Cyler) and other characters. from the movie.
As a western crazed teenager in London, Samuel was thrilled to read about these historical figures at the local library.
"All these people I had never heard ofr before, ”Samuel said. And that he has never seen on screen. "I knew all the words from " Windy City "by Doris Day in " Calamity Jane ", but I had never heard of Stagecoach Mary. So fin to talk about these people was a real treat. "
"The Harder They Fall" doesn't bother White people much, with one exception. Needing the money, Nat brings gang member Cuffee (Danielle Deadwyler) with him to rob a bank.e. They have been warned that their target is in a white city, and it still is. The buildings are white. The roads are white. The horses are white. And, of course, the people are white. When Nat and Cuffee enter the bank, they are faced with a shocked silence, much like cowboy bar Eddie Murphy requisitions in "48 Hrs ". goes mute.
"This particular scene was fun for me because I wanted to play on the premise of what we consider white " said Samuel . "I really walk away from the color in the movie, so you can be any race and just watch these characters and support the ones you support and just enjoy the universal story." But when I launch into color, I make it my duty to reverse it and make us rethink it.
For the most part, the film's statement is its absence. TOWith a roster of outlaws and black lawyers, "The Harder They Fall " is a black western.
And yet …
"This is a movie about a group of people, and these people are black by default," said Samuel. "But their skin color has nothing to do with the story. What were we waiting for, right?