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A Soldier's Story (1984)

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An African American officer investigates a murder in a racially charged situation in World War II.

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(screenplay), (play)
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Captain Davenport
...
Sergeant Waters
...
Private Wilkie
...
Corporal Cobb
...
Private Smalls
...
Captain Taylor
Larry Riley ...
C.J. Memphis
...
Corporal Ellis
...
...
Private Henson
...
Big Mary
...
Lieutenant Byrd
...
Captain Wilcox
...
Sergeant Washington
...
Colonel Nivens
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Storyline

A black soldier is killed while returning to his base in the deep south. The white people of the area are suspected at first. A tough black army attorney is brought in to find out the truth. We find out a bit more about the dead soldier in flashbacks - and that he was unpopular. Will the attorney find the killer ? Written by Colin Tinto <cst@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Alone, far from home, and far from justice, he has three days to learn the truth about a murder...and the truth is a story you won't forget.

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Mystery | War

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

2 November 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La historia de un soldado  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$22,100,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Second of three films about racism that were directed by Norman Jewison. The first was In the Heat of the Night (1967) and the third was The Hurricane (1999). All three films were made around fifteen years apart. See more »

Goofs

When Davenport is interviewing Wilkie, the Captain's sunglasses start out on the desk, next to the books. In subsequent shots they are on the top of the hat where they stay until the final shot as Wilkie is leaving the room, when they disappear. See more »

Quotes

Master Sergeant Vernon Waters: Them Nazis ain't all crazy. Whole lot of people just can't seem to fit in to where things seem to be going. Like you, CJ. See, the Black race can't afford you no more. There used to be a time, we'd see someone like you singin', clownin', yassuh-bossin'... and we wouldn't do anything. Folks liked that. You were good. Homey kind of nigger. When they needed somebody to mistreat, call a name or two, they paraded you. Reminded them of the good old days. Not no more. The day of the Geechee is gone, ...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Laserblast (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Pourin' Whiskey Blues
Written by Patti LaBelle, James R. Ellison (as James Ellison) and Armistead Edwards
Performed by Patti LaBelle
See more »

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User Reviews

Outstanding murder mystery centered around a different type of racism...
21 December 2003 | by (Novato, CA) – See all my reviews

"A Soldier's Story," directed by Norman Jewison, tells a very powerful and tragic tale of black racism in WWII America. It is equally puzzling and disturbing and will leave you thinking about it for a long time to come.

The story takes place at a military base in the American South during the last full year of the Second World War, in 1944. Sergeant Vernon Waters, a Black man, is shot to death. The locals, as well as the Black enlisted men at the base, believe it to be the work of the Ku Klux Klan. Captain Davenport, also a Black man, as well as the first Black officer most of the men at this base have ever seen, is asked to investigate this. The White officers all want to see this matter brought to a swift and tidy conclusion in order to prevent what they see as a potential race riot between the Black soldiers and local Whites around town.

Davenport (deftly played by the late Howard E. Rollins Jr.) questions the enlisted men at the base, and begins to learn that the murdered sergeant(Adolph Ceaser in an Oscar-nominated performance) had no shortage of enemies, White and Black.

Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Waters is a man of great personal pride and dignity, a man who believes that the African-American race has great potential to "take it's rightful place in history" alongside the White race in America. But his pride is also fueled by a terrible hatred of Black men, mostly Southern men, who he believes are hurting the race by presenting themselves as lower-class bumpkins; the stereotypical shiftless, lazy, ignorant types; the smiling, singing clowns; the "yassah-boss niggers."

One soldier, C.J. Memphis, a simple but charming, illiterate, guitar-strumming man, comes to personify these character traits in Waters' eyes. The clash between those two personalities is a crucial centerpiece to this movie's message.

Ceaser is astonishing as Waters, a man so full of loathing and bile towards his own people, you can feel it oozing off the screen. His best moment occurs in a bar where he stares into a mirror and talks in a dark tone about his unit's heroic efforts in France in the First World War, and how one Black soldier destroyed that sterling image in the minds of many White Frenchmen.....and what Waters did in response. It's chilling.

An undervalued film that you may have to look a little harder in your local video store to find, but well worth the effort!


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