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Ruby Dee Buck and the Preacher

I enjoyed Ruby Dee’s contribution to film projects such as Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, but what left an indelible impression was Buck and the Preacher, directed by Sidney Poitier. 

I found a VHS copy in a ‘marked down’ film bin in a music store in Johannesburg.  It was a good find for an aspiring film producer (at the time) like me.
Buck and the Preacher is about two men who are as different as the sun and the moon, but are forced to stick together because of a dangerous situation, a staple Hollywood storyline. 
Armed and dangerous men are looking for Buck (Sidney Poitier).  His crime is that he helps former slaves who took the road to freedom after slavery was abolished. 
Their masters do not want to accept the new order, so they hire bounty seekers who catch freed slaves and bring them back to plantations for some more free labour.

The preacher (Harry Belafonte) is out there to con them.  There’s a gun in his big bible.  In one scene, he is not pleased that Buck ate his rabbit.
Ruby Dee as Ruth, is Sidney Poitier’s love interest.  He figures that the evil men know his weakness and might try to find him through her.  He gets there too late. 
Buck cannot see that there’s a guy with a gun behind her, but he senses danger.  Sign language also saves the day.  You should see the film to appreciate the cinema, sheer cinema I tell you. 
That’s not all.  Buck, the Preacher and Ruth had to rob a bank for some travelling cash.  Lord have mercy, was I scared?  How can you try to take cubs from mother lion?
There was Ruth, as calm as you please, collecting the money while Buck and the Preacher held them in a steady ‘don’t even think about it’ gaze.  They got away with Ruby Dee riding that horse, freedom on her mind.
Another scene I’ll never forget is when the leader of the Native Americans who helped them reminds Buck how black soldiers in the American army also hunted them down.

‘I ain’t in the army no more,’ said Buck.  The film prompted me to research the dangers freed slaves faced and various American Fugitive Slave Acts. 

Lala ngoxolo Ruby Dee (rest in peace).

By:  Nonqaba waka Msimang.


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