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HISTORY

After the opening credits, a written statement describes the plight of freed slaves attempting to start new lives after the Civil War and dedicates the film to “those men, women and children who lie in graves as unmarked as their place in history.” Sheldon Schrager’s onscreen credit reads: “Assistant director and unit production manager.” E & R Production Corp. was the name of actor-director Sidney Poiter's production company.
       Contemporary sources reported that the picture began production with Joseph Sargent as the director, but after a few days, Sargent was replaced by Poitier, who made his directorial debut with Buck and the Preacher . According to an Aug 1971 Look magazine article, Poitier also worked with Ernest Kinoy on revising and polishing the screenplay before production began.
       While Feb 1971 DV news items reported that the change of directors was made due to “differences between the director and stars,” Filmfacts quoted actor Cameron Mitchell as stating that Sargent “was shooting the picture like a TV show.” Filmfacts also quoted co-producer Harry Belafonte, who stated: “We might as well face it. We needed a black man for a sensitive job about black people.” In his autobiography, Poitier related that he took over direction of the film at the urging of Belafonte because they both felt that Sargent was not emphasizing “certain values dear to [them]." In a long article about the production in Mar 1971, DV reported that Sargent was amenable to being replaced, because he felt that Poitier “had breathed and lived with it [the film] since its conception….It’s his film. It’s ... More Less

After the opening credits, a written statement describes the plight of freed slaves attempting to start new lives after the Civil War and dedicates the film to “those men, women and children who lie in graves as unmarked as their place in history.” Sheldon Schrager’s onscreen credit reads: “Assistant director and unit production manager.” E & R Production Corp. was the name of actor-director Sidney Poiter's production company.
       Contemporary sources reported that the picture began production with Joseph Sargent as the director, but after a few days, Sargent was replaced by Poitier, who made his directorial debut with Buck and the Preacher . According to an Aug 1971 Look magazine article, Poitier also worked with Ernest Kinoy on revising and polishing the screenplay before production began.
       While Feb 1971 DV news items reported that the change of directors was made due to “differences between the director and stars,” Filmfacts quoted actor Cameron Mitchell as stating that Sargent “was shooting the picture like a TV show.” Filmfacts also quoted co-producer Harry Belafonte, who stated: “We might as well face it. We needed a black man for a sensitive job about black people.” In his autobiography, Poitier related that he took over direction of the film at the urging of Belafonte because they both felt that Sargent was not emphasizing “certain values dear to [them]." In a long article about the production in Mar 1971, DV reported that Sargent was amenable to being replaced, because he felt that Poitier “had breathed and lived with it [the film] since its conception….It’s his film. It’s as simple as that, and there was nothing racial about it whatever.”
       The DV article also noted that the production, which recruited black extras from El Paso, TX because “Negroes who lived in Mexico….just didn’t look black,” was facing charges of discrimination by Mexican actors and crew members, who complained that they were underrepresented and underpaid. The producers responded that they were paying scale wages, and that in addition to the Mexican crew utilized, six “minority trainees,” including story writer Drake Walker, who worked as an apprentice director, were part of the crew. In mid-Feb 1971, DV reported that black Mexican actors had filed a grievance with a Mexican actors guild against the production, claiming that they were denied jobs. Columbia Pictures responded that “U.S. Negro war veterans living in and around Guadalajara” had been hired instead of Mexican actors because they spoke English more fluently.
       Filmfacts reported that although Columbia had announced in Jan 1971 that Joan Blackman had been cast as a “Southwestern Quaker,” she did not appear in the released film. The Feb 1971 DV article included Ron Fletcher and Charles Fawcett in the cast; however, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Actress Julie Robinson, who portrays “Sinsie” in the film, is married to Belafonte. According to a 15 May 1972 Box article, she learned the Mescalero Apache language that she speaks in the picture through research at the American Indian Museum in New York. As noted in the onscreen credits, the picture was shot on location in Durango, Mexico. According to studio publicity, the final sequence in the lush valley was shot in Marysville, CA.
       Buck and the Preacher marked the first film collaboration of longtime friends Poitier and Belafonte, and several reviewers compared the film to the 1969 hit Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford (see below). Other critics commented positively on Poitier’s direction and the unusual presentation of African-American settlers and their interactions with Indian Americans. Although the Aug 1971 Look article stated that Poitier and Belafonte hoped the film would “be successful enough to repeat,” a sequel to Buck and the Preacher was not produced. Poitier and Belafonte next worked together on the 1974 comedy Uptown Saturday Night , which was directed by Poitier. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 May 1972.
---
Box Office
15 May 1972.
---
Cue
29 Apr 1972.
---
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1971.
---
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1971
p. 27.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1971.
---
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1971.
---
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1971
p. 1, 8.
Daily Variety
19 Apr 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp.194-97.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1971
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1972
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1972
pp. 3-4.
Look
24 Aug 1971
pp. 56-62.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
4 May 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 May 1972.
---
Motion Picture Herald
May 1972.
---
New York
1 May 1972.
---
New York Times
29 Apr 1972
p. 19.
New York Times
7 May 1972.
---
Newsweek
15 May 1972
p. 89.
Saturday Review
3 Jun 1972
p. 67.
Time
29 May 1972.
---
Variety
19 Apr 1972
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
Dir intern
Dir intern
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam intern
Gaffer
Key grip
Crane grip
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Featuring
Featuring
SOUND
Sd mixer
Dubbing mixer
Sd intern
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv intern
Prod consultant
Casting
Dial coach
Loc contact
Auditor
Gen operations
Driver
Driver
Chapman crane driver
Asst to prod
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1972
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 28 April 1972
Production Date:
4 February--5 April 1971 in Durango, Mexico
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 December 1971
Copyright Number:
LP40315
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23023
SYNOPSIS

After the Civil War, former slave and Union Army sergeant Buck becomes a wagon master and leads freed slaves to the West in search of a better life. The homesteaders are plagued by mercenary soldiers known as night riders, hired by Southern plantation owners, who destroy their supplies in order to force them to return to work in the South. After terrorizing one group, the night riders’ leader, former Confederate soldier Beau Deshay, plans to ambush Buck at the farm belonging to his woman, Ruth. Buck escapes, however, and after spotting a solitary campfire with a horse tethered nearby, begins to swap his exhausted horse for the fresh horse. However, when the horse's owner, a former slave and glib con man who wears clerical garb, spouts biblical verses and calls himself Preacher, protests, Buck levels his gun at him and rides off. The disgruntled Preacher proceeds to a small boomtown and there meets a young black child named Little Toby, who tells him that his people have planted a crop for a local farmer and are about to head West. Preacher is then accosted by Deshay, who recognizes Buck’s horse and demands to know Buck’s location. After Preacher, who introduces himself as Reverend Willis Oakes Rutherford of the High and Low Order of the Holiness Persuasion Church, convinces him that he does not know Buck's whereabouts, Deshay offers him a $500 reward for Buck, dead or alive, and tells him that the night riders reside in the town of Copper Springs. Preacher goes with Toby to meet his family and discovers that they are from St. Anne’s Parish in Louisiana. ... +


After the Civil War, former slave and Union Army sergeant Buck becomes a wagon master and leads freed slaves to the West in search of a better life. The homesteaders are plagued by mercenary soldiers known as night riders, hired by Southern plantation owners, who destroy their supplies in order to force them to return to work in the South. After terrorizing one group, the night riders’ leader, former Confederate soldier Beau Deshay, plans to ambush Buck at the farm belonging to his woman, Ruth. Buck escapes, however, and after spotting a solitary campfire with a horse tethered nearby, begins to swap his exhausted horse for the fresh horse. However, when the horse's owner, a former slave and glib con man who wears clerical garb, spouts biblical verses and calls himself Preacher, protests, Buck levels his gun at him and rides off. The disgruntled Preacher proceeds to a small boomtown and there meets a young black child named Little Toby, who tells him that his people have planted a crop for a local farmer and are about to head West. Preacher is then accosted by Deshay, who recognizes Buck’s horse and demands to know Buck’s location. After Preacher, who introduces himself as Reverend Willis Oakes Rutherford of the High and Low Order of the Holiness Persuasion Church, convinces him that he does not know Buck's whereabouts, Deshay offers him a $500 reward for Buck, dead or alive, and tells him that the night riders reside in the town of Copper Springs. Preacher goes with Toby to meet his family and discovers that they are from St. Anne’s Parish in Louisiana. Much to Preacher’s surprise, Buck is their wagon master, and upon seeing him, Preacher knocks the scout down with a mighty punch. Buck agrees to trade horses again but, mistrusting Preacher, orders him not to accompany the group. The pioneers are loaded down with supplies and are carrying almost $2,000, which is hidden in a belt worn by a young woman. Preacher, having seen the money, is determined to go along, but the next day, Buck forces him to leave. Buck then gives the group’s leader, Kingston, directions to the next waterhole and promises to rejoin them soon. Preacher trails Buck and catches up to him, but is terrified when Indian warriors appear, although Buck calmly dismounts and prepares to talk to the Indians. Through Sinsie, the chief’s wife and translator, Buck requests safe passage for the settlers and the right to hunt buffalo. The chief and Buck agree on a price, although the chief allows them only five days to cross. That night, while Preacher and Buck rest at their campsite, the settlers are attacked by Deshay and his men. With their money stolen, supplies destroyed and several people murdered, the homesteaders are heartbroken, but old Cudjo, one of the homesteaders, throws his fortune-telling bones and declares that a lush valley awaits them. Buck and Preacher are dismayed upon seeing the devastation, and when the group insists on continuing, Buck assures them that they have safe passage. Preacher is especially distraught by Toby’s death and informs Buck that Deshay’s gang is at Copper Springs. Determined to retrieve the settlers’ money, Buck and Preacher head for the town while the wagon train moves on. In Copper Springs, Sheriff Jeff Harley warns Deshay that it is illegal to assault the pioneers, but Deshay insists that as “bona fide labor recruiters,” they have a right to “preserve” the pre-war way of life. At night, Deshay and seven of his men are relaxing at Madam Esther’s bordello when Preacher bursts in to distract them. Preacher makes the men laugh as he declaims against fornication, and when their guard is down, Buck enters and a gunfight ensues. Buck and Preacher, who keeps a large pistol hidden in his Bible, kill their enemies, although two of the gang members, who are in the saloon, escape. Floyd, Deshay’s nephew, and the other rider join the sheriff’s posse in pursuit of Buck and Preacher, but the two black men elude them. While they rest, Buck is disgusted to discover that the mercenaries had already squandered most of the settlers’ money. Buck and Preacher then ride to Ruth’s cabin, where she declares that she wants to move to Canada with Buck to raise a family in a land free from any “shadow of slavery.” Ruth asserts that the idealistic Buck has done as much as one man can, but Buck maintains that he gave his word to the homesteaders. Reluctantly, Ruth accompanies Buck and Preacher, with the trio leaving just ahead of the pursuing posse. Later, at camp, Buck confesses to Ruth that he feels beaten by the night riders and their violence, even though he had survived both slavery and fighting in the war. Preacher then reveals that he got the “funny Bible” that hides his pistol after killing the white preacher who owned and abused him and his mother. As Buck ponders how to replenish the settlers’ money, Preacher suggests robbing the bank at Copper Springs, because all the men are out searching for them. With Ruth’s help, Buck and Preacher succeed in stealing the money and are about to ride away quietly when one of their captives raises the alarm. The posse, which had returned during the robbery, chases the fleeing trio but is stopped when the fugitives ride through a line of Indians, who close their ranks against the whites. Although Floyd wants to fight through the Indians, Harley warns that they will be slaughtered if they pursue Buck. The trio is taken to the chief, who states that although they are guaranteed safe passage, the Indians will not fight for them, nor sell them any of their own much-needed firearms. Meanwhile, the posse has found the St. Anne Parish wagon train, upon which Floyd and Harley spy from a nearby ridge. Floyd wants to attack the settlers but Harley rebukes him, after which Floyd kills the sheriff and tells the posse that Harley approved the raid. As the posse rides down the hillside, they are spotted by Buck, who gives the money to Ruth, then rides with Preacher in the opposite direction to draw off their pursuers. Buck and Preacher allow themselves to be chased up into a rocky hillside and a prolonged shootout begins, during which the pair kills several posse members and are wounded themselves. Just as they are about to be gunned down, the watching chief sends his warriors to help them. The surviving posse members are either killed or frightened off, and Buck and Preacher are saved by Ruth and Kingston. Later, the settlers survey the beautiful valley foretold by Cudjo then bid farewell to Buck, Ruth and Preacher, who ride north toward their own destiny. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.