Sergeant Rutledge

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Sergeant Rutledge
Sergeant Rutledge image.jpg
Directed byJohn Ford
Produced byWillis Goldbeck
Patrick Ford
Written byJames Warner Bellah
Willis Goldbeck
StarringJeffrey Hunter
Woody Strode
Billie Burke
Music byHoward Jackson
CinematographyBert Glennon
Edited byJack Murray
John Ford Productions
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • May 18, 1960 (1960-05-18) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States

Sergeant Rutledge is a 1960 American Technicolor Western crime film starring Jeffrey Hunter, Woody Strode and Billie Burke.[1] It was directed by John Ford and shot on location in Monument Valley, Utah.

The film starred Strode as a black first sergeant in the United States Cavalry accused of the rape and murder of a white girl at a U.S. Army fort in the early 1880s.[2] This was Billie Burke's final film role.


The film revolves around the court-martial of 1st Sgt. Braxton Rutledge (Strode), a "Buffalo Soldier" of the 9th U.S. Cavalry, in 1881. His defense is handled by Lt. Tom Cantrell (Hunter), Rutledge's troop officer. The story is told through a series of flashbacks, expanding the testimony of witnesses as they describe the events following the murder of Rutledge's Commanding Officer, Major Dabney, and the rape and murder of Dabney's daughter, for which Rutledge is the accused.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that the first sergeant raped and murdered the girl and then killed his commanding officer. Worse still, Rutledge deserts after the killings. Ultimately, he is tracked down and arrested by Lt. Cantrell. At one point, Rutledge escapes from captivity during an Indian raid, but later, he voluntarily returns to warn his fellow cavalrymen that they are about to face an ambush, thus saving the troop. He is then brought back in to face the charges and the prejudices of an all-white military court.

Eventually he is found not guilty of the rape and murder of the girl when a local white man breaks down under questioning and admits that he raped and murdered the girl.


Parts of the film were shot in Monument Valley and the San Juan River at Mexican Hat in Utah.[3]


Other Countries[edit]

In Spain, the film was shown under the title of El Sargento Negro (The Black Sergeant)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; April 16, 1960; page 64.
  2. ^ Ford's use of the 9th was in error. At the time of the story, with Gen. Nelson A. Miles in command, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry served in Arizona. The 9th Cavalry was stationed in West Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Nebraska, but never Arizona.
  3. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.


  • Miguel Ángel Navarro Crego, «Sergeant Rutledge», de John Ford, como un mito filosófico, ISBN 978-84-6928-947-1

External links[edit]