Nothing But a Man

This post is one of a series honoring Black History Month.

This TV Guide ad from the early 1970s promoting the TV premiere of Nothing But a Man is significant because it marked the first time the critically acclaimed 1964 film was widely seen. The independent feature had had a limited run in a few key cities on its initial release, and was hampered by a small marketing budget. Widely hailed today as a classic and a masterpiece, it was obscure in its own day, despite having been less ahead of its time than simply OF its time.

Directed and produced by Michael Roehmer, Nothing But a Man is essentially a love story that takes place in a setting where the very quality that attracts a woman to a man — his independence — becomes a liability and bar to their happiness together. Ivan Dixon (of Hogan’s Heroes and much else) plays a worker on a railroad gang who falls in love with a preacher’s daughter (singer Abbey Lincoln) in a town where he has stopped over. They marry and he settles down to town life in the Deep South, which he is unused to. He loses several jobs, and has several run-ins with local citizens and authorities and his father-in-law because he won’t knuckle down to the rules of Jim Crow. Eventually, he leaves his wife — though (spoiler alert) there is a twist. Apart from its copious merits the film is noteworthy for containing the first screen appearance of Yaphet Kotto. As of this writing it is available to watch on Youtube. I heartily recommend it.