Nothing But a Man
is a film made in 1964 and directed by Michael Roemer
Michael Roemer is a film director, producer and writer. He has won several awards for his films. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. A professor at Yale University, he is the author of Telling Stories.- Early years :...
. The story is about a black railroad worker, who falls in love with a black school teacher, who is the town’s preacher’s daughter. The story depicts the struggle of their strife for “a meaningful place” in their society. It stars Ivan Dixon as Duff Anderson and Abbey Lincoln as Josie Dawson. It was originally a 1933 play, but was not made into a movie until 1964. According to The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...
, "Nothing But a Man
is one of the most sensitive films about black life ever made in this country”.
The story introduces Duff Anderson on the railroad, playing checkers with his rail worker friends, at a pool hall, and on the street at night. At church, Duff meets Josie Dawson, a very grounded
Grounded, may refer to:*Grounding , restrictions placed on movement or privileges*Grounded, a song by My Vitriol*Unaccompanied Minors, a film*Grounded , a comic book by Mark Sable for Image Comics...
woman. They begin to date, against the will of Preacher Dawson (Josie’s father). Duff then realizes that he prefers the stability and love of a wife as opposed to brute
- People :* Brute of Troy, a legendary descendant of the Trojan hero Æneas, known in mediæval British legend as the founder and first king of Britain...
freedom. The two marry and begin to face a series of challenges as a married couple. Duff's past is constantly lingering and creates difficulty in their lives. Duff has a son who is nearly four who stays with a nanny; he also has an unfamiliar drunkard of a father. The plot unfolds as Duff faces racism, unemployment, social barriers, illegitimate children, and his drunken father at the side of his caring wife. Duff and his wife get into a fight because of the emotional and physical trials Duff faces. Duff storms off to his father, who is so inebriated, that he dies as Duff is driving him to the hospital. The film concludes as Duff finally gains the courage to return home with his son and he reassures his wife that everything is “gonna be all right”.
- Ivan Dixon
Ivan Dixon was an American actor, director, and producer best known for his series role in the 1960s sitcom Hogan's Heroes, for his role in the 1967 telefilm The Final War of Olly Winter, and for directing hundreds of episodes of television series...
: Duff Anderson
- Abbey Lincoln
Anna Marie Wooldridge , better known by her stage name Abbey Lincoln, was a jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress. Lincoln was unusual in that she wrote and performed her own compositions, expanding the expectations of jazz audiences.-Biography:Born in Chicago, Illinois, she was one of many...
: Josie Dawson
- Yaphet Kotto
Yaphet Frederick Kotto is an African-American actor, known for numerous film roles , and his starring role in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street .-Early life:Kotto was born in New York City, the son of Gladys Marie, a...
- Leonard Parker: Frankie
- Stanley Green: Reverend Dawson
- Eugene Wood: Johnson
- Helen Lounck: Effie Simms
- Julius Harris
Julius W. Harris was an American actor who appeared in more than 70 movies and numerous television series in a career that spanned four decades.-Early life and career:...
: Will Anderson
- Gloria Foster
Gloria Foster was an American actress, most known for her stage performances portraying an array of African-American characters, including her acclaimed roles in plays In White America and Having Our Say, winning three Obie Awards during her career.In films, she was perhaps best known as The...
- Gertrude Jeanette
Gertrude Jeannette is an African-American film and stage actress. She was blacklisted during the Red Scare, along with her friend Paul Robeson. She is the founder of the H.A.D.L.E.Y Players in Harlem, New York City, and is active in mentoring African-American actors in New York City.Jeannette was...
: Mrs. Dawson
The original soundtrack to the film was put together by Wilbur Kirk and employs an original soundtrack by Motown Records
Motown is a record label originally founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in Detroit, Michigan, United States, on April 14, 1960. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is also a nickname for Detroit...
- 1. "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" - Martha & The Vandellas
- 2. "Fingertips (Pt. II)" - Little Stevie Wonder
- 3. "That's the Way I Feel" - The Miracles
The Miracles are an American rhythm and blues group from Detroit, Michigan, notable as the first successful group act for Berry Gordy's Motown Record Corporation . Their single "Shop Around" was Motown's first million-selling hit record, and the group went on to become one of Motown's signature...
- 4. "Come on Home" - Holland & Dozier
- 5. "This Is When I Need You Most" - Martha & The Vandellas
- 6. "I'll Try Something New" - The Miracles
- 7. "Way Over There" - The Marvelettes
The Marvelettes were an American singing girl group on the Tamla label. Motown's first successful female vocal group, the Marvelettes are most notable for recording the company's first #1 Pop hit, "Please Mr...
- 8. "Mickey's Monkey" - The Miracles
- 9. "You Beat Me to the Punch" - Mary Wells
Mary Esther Wells was an American singer who helped to define the emerging sound of Motown in the early 1960s...
- 10. "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" (live) - The Miracles
- 11. "Bye Bye Baby" (live) - Mary Wells
In 1993, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. The Board, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008...
by the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The script was written in six weeks but casting took several months because at the time not many blacks could find part time work in the cinema. Charles Gordone
Charles Edward Gordone was an American playwright, actor, director, and educator. He was the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and devoted much of his professional life to the pursuit of multi-racial American theater and racial unity.-Early years:Born Charles Edward...
is responsible for introducing the writers to the main stars, Abbey Lincoln and Ivan Dixon. The movie premiered at Philharmonic Hall
Liverpool Philharmonic Hall is a concert hall in Hope Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, England. It is the home of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society and has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building...
and was a supposed success.
Before the film was written, Roemer, who had fled Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...
as an 11-year old child on the Kindertransport
Kindertransport is the name given to the rescue mission that took place nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Free City of Danzig...
s, and his colleagues went on a quest to understand and get to know the African American culture of the south. They “left on an Underground Railway in reverse”. They allowed themselves to be passed on from one family and community to the next so they could learn as much as possible about the relationships and experiences. One morning, while in Mississippi, the plot of a young couple and the relationship with the man’s father came to Roemer and the script was written in six short weeks as soon as they were back in New York.
The film was written by both Robert M. Young and Michael Roemer, who drew on his own background as a Jew persecuted by Nazis. Michael Roemer also went on to direct the movie; Robert M. Young directed the cinematography. It was produced by both men, along with Robert Rubin and was edited by Luke Bennet. The music was done by Wilbur Kirk, the production design was done by William Rhodes, and Nancy Ruffing was the costume designer.
The film was apparently a favorite film of Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...
Julius Harris was a male nurse before he was cast in the movie, but had always wanted to act.
At the last minute, the writer almost changed the name of the movie to Duff Anderson.