USA / 1972
Director: Sidney Poitier
Writer: Ernest Kinoy based on a story by Kinoy and Drake Walker
Cast: Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Cameron Mitchell, Denny Miller, Nita Talbot
Sidney Poitier stars in this comedy western, his directorial debut, alongside Harry Belafonte. The pair play ex-slaves heading for the far west who are headhunted by employers at plantations eager for cheap labour. Buck (Poitier) is an ex-Cavalryman who has found a niche as a wagonmaster and Belafonte excels as a con-man behind the façade of the preacher. The impressive acting triangle is completed by Ruby Dee, who is romantically entwined with Buck. Cameron Mitchell plays a suitably evil villain.
A buddy film without the racial frictions of the other successful partnerships Poitier was involved with – notably In the Heat of the Night and The Defiant Ones – Buck and the Preacher scores points for having a broad appeal and an agreeable humour that develops nicely, especially as the film moves into its second half.
The film was a hit with the big-name critics. Maltin was impressed by the ‘good characterisations’ while Variety hailed it an: ‘Entertaining comedy and drama… Belafonte dominates the film.’ Time Out too was impressed with the acting: ‘…excellent performances by Poitier and Belafonte…’ while Halliwell applauded this: ‘Lively, easygoing western’.