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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.

Director:

Norman Jewison

Writers:

Charles Fuller (screenplay), Charles Fuller (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:
Howard E. Rollins Jr. ... Captain Davenport
Adolph Caesar ... Sergeant Waters
Art Evans ... Private Wilkie
David Alan Grier ... Corporal Cobb
David Harris ... Private Smalls
Dennis Lipscomb ... Captain Taylor
Larry Riley ... C.J. Memphis
Robert Townsend ... Corporal Ellis
Denzel Washington ... Private First Class Peterson
William Allen Young ... Private Henson
Patti LaBelle ... Big Mary
Wings Hauser ... Lieutenant Byrd
Scott Paulin ... Captain Wilcox
John Hancock ... Sergeant Washington
Trey Wilson ... 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 November 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La historia de un soldado See more »

Filming Locations:

Clarendon, Arkansas, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$156,383, 16 September 1984, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$21,821,347
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Patti LaBelle: The real life soul singer as blues songstress Big Mary. See more »

Goofs

Just before Davenport goes to the jail for the last time he carries an umbrella in the rain. Male officers were not permitted to carry an umbrella then or now. See more »

Quotes

Colonel Nivens: The worst thing you can do, in this part of the country, is pay too much attention to the death of a negro under mysterious circumstances.
See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Bright Red Zoot Suit
Written and Performed by Larry Riley
See more »

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User Reviews

Outstanding murder mystery centered around a different type of racism...
21 December 2003 | by johnny3868See 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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