Nothing But a Man (1964)

Rated Not Rated

Starring: Ivan Dixon, Abbey Lincoln, Julius Harris, Gloria Foster and Yaphet Kotto

Not Rated: Drama/Romance

Considered to be Malcolm X’s favorite film, this independent motion picture is about the various manifestations of Black love as experienced by the protagonist, Duff Anderson (Ivan Dixon).  Set in the early 1960s in a small town outside Birmingham, Alabama, Duff is an itinerant railroad worker.  He is a proud, Black man whose experiences, including frequent defiance against subservience to Whites, with racism drastically impact his professional and personal life. 

This impact is especially felt in the scenes that feature Duff and his alcoholic father, Will (Julius Harris), who abandoned him as a child, and in scenes with his own wife, Josie (Abbey Lincoln). She is a daughter who hails from a middle-class family led by the patriarch, a pastor.  Touchingly portrayed by the primary acting cast, The Washington Post hailed Nothing But a Man as “one of the most sensitive films about Black life ever made in this country.”

In 1964, Nothing But a Man was awarded the San Giorgio Prize at the Venice Film Festival, the oldest film festival in the world.  The film featured hit songs of many Motown artists, including The Miracles; The Marvelletes; Martha and the Vandellas; Mary Wells and Little Stevie Wonder, which comprised the soundtrack.  This was the first original soundtrack created by the Detroit record label.  In 1996, Motown Records released Nothing But a Man on CD.

Because of its initial limited release, the film lacked box office success.  However, by the early ‘90s, it became a cult classic and in 1993, Nothing But a Man was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States Film Registry for being, according to the Library’s standards, “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”  

For greater enlightenment...