Respected black cavalry Sergeant Brax Rutledge stands court-martial for raping and killing a white woman and murdering her father, his superior officer.


John Ford
2 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Jeffrey Hunter ... Lt. Tom Cantrell
Constance Towers ... Mary Beecher
Billie Burke ... Mrs. Cordelia Fosgate
Woody Strode ... 1st Sgt. Braxton Rutledge
Juano Hernandez ... Sgt. Matthew Luke Skidmore
Willis Bouchey ... Col. Otis Fosgate
Carleton Young ... Capt. Shattuck
Judson Pratt ... Lt. Mulqueen


Lieutenant Tom Cantrell is sent to defend Sergeant Braxton Rutledge, a black cavalry soldier, on a charge of rape and murder. The story begins in a courtroom and it is told through flashbacks. This is a story of how a black soldier in the face of danger from the Indians can be so easily mistaken as a criminal. Written by Christopher D. Ryan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It's the rendezvous with DEATH for men to whom DEATH was no stranger! See more »


Crime | Western


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Did You Know?


Unsatisfied with Woody Strode's rehearsal of bullet-wounded drowsiness, director John Ford took his own steps to make Strode appear authentically weary for Rutledge's gunshot early on in the film. The day before the scene was to be shot, Ford got Strode drunk early in the day and had an assistant follow him around for the rest of the day to make sure he stayed that way. When the time came for Strode to shoot the scene with Constance Towers, his hangover gave him the perfect (for Ford) appearance of a man who had been shot. See more »


When everyone is inside Spindle Station and the 1st Sergeant is already in handcuffs Lt. Cantrell orders the men to search Sgt. Rutledge, etc. then barks a command to "tie him up". There's no binding at the wrists (only the cuffs) and Rutledge walks out without his ankles bound. Not a piece of rope in sight. See more »


Capt. Shattuck: You are trying to trade your murderer's bravery for the mercy of the court! Isn't that it?
1st Sgt. Braxton Rutledge: No, sir, that is not it at all!
Capt. Shattuck: All right, Rutledge, if that isn't it, what was it?
1st Sgt. Braxton Rutledge: It was because the Ninth Cavalry was my home, my real freedom, and my self-respect, and the way I was desertin' it, I wasn't
[voice cracking]
1st Sgt. Braxton Rutledge: nuthin' worse than a swamp-runnin' nigger, and I ain't that! Do you hear me? I'm a man!
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Featured in Ainda Não Acabámos: Como Se Fosse Uma Carta (2016) See more »


Captain Buffalo
Words and Music by Mack David and Jerry Livingston
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User Reviews

Buffalo Soldier.
8 November 2009 | by hitchcockthelegendSee all my reviews

It was alright for Mr. Lincoln to say we was free. But that ain't so! Not yet! Maybe some day, but not yet!

John Ford's Sergeant Rutledge tells the story of a black man, 1st Sgt. Braxton Rutledge, a Buffalo Soldier of the 9th U.S. Cavalry who was up before a court-martial for the rape and murder of a white girl, Major Dabney's daughter, Lucy.

Taking place in the court room the story is told in flashback as Rutledge's (Woody Strode) troop officer, and defence council, Lt. Tom Cantrell (Jeffrey Hunter) attempts to piece together the evidence. From the outset Ford is on biting form as the case is being tried in a biased and corruptible court, we as the viewers are left in no doubt that Rutledge could be at the mercy of obnoxious white racists. It's one of the many things that makes the film a bold and at times angry picture. This was after all two years before the critically acclaimed To Kill A Mockingbird, thus making it one of the flag bearers for early acknowledgement of race relations in America.

As the sharp narrative moves forward, cloaked in visual excellence with Bert Glennon this time being Ford's cinematographer of choice, the film always keeps us guessing as to the outcome. We really can never be sure, such is the stench of racism that hangs heavy, a stench that is counter pointed by Woody Strode's wonderful and powerful performance as the on trial man. Also in fine physical shape at 46, Strode serves notice to just what a fine and important actor he was in relation to Black Americans in Hollywood. Hunter is handsome and strong in vocal delivery as the council in the middle of a real tricky trial, and Constance Towers as Mary Beecher is the glue binding them, and the story, all together.

It's a first rate picture from Ford, one that is largely (and wrongly) forgotten when talk of his oeuvre comes around. Still awaiting a DVD release in the UK, it's evident that it still remains hidden from many a prospective new viewer. This needs correcting because it's bold, beautiful and important cinema from a master director, who, as always, had much to say. 9/10

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Release Date:

25 May 1960 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Captain Buffalo See more »

Filming Locations:

Monument Valley, Arizona, USA See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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