Tuesday, June 25, 2013

NFL, Hollywood pioneer Strode my latest custom card

Normally this time of year, the time I have available for making custom cards is spent working on baseball subjects.

After watching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on TV last week, however, I decided to switch things up and check off a 1955-style All-American football card that has been on my to-do list for a number of years: Woody Strode.

Strode's role as John Wayne's sidekick Pompey in that Western wasn't the finest of his 90-some movie roles between 1941 and 1995, but even in a small role, Strode was an arresting character.

There are lots of good internet biographies of Strode, so I won't do much more than hit the highlights here.

With Kenny Washington and Jackie Robinson (for whom I've already created custom cards) Strode was one of three black starters for UCLA at a time when most major college football programs had none. That lineup paid off for the Bruins in 1939 when they had an undefeated 6-0-4 season, including a 0-0 tie with Southern California to earn the Pacific Coast Conference Co-championship.

He teamed up with Washington to play minor league football for the Hollywood Bears after graduation. During the war he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps on the gridiron in California and in the Pacific Theater.

After the war he again teamed with Washington on the 1946 L.A. Rams, reintegrating the NFL for the first time since the early 1930s.

In the off-seasons at college, he and Washington worked as gophers at the Warner Brothers movie studios and by 1939 he was getting a few uncredited walk-on parts, including in John Ford's Stagecoach.

Pretty much typecast throughout his Hollywood career, Strode's chiseled visage and 6'4" physique made him a natural whenever a film needed a Nubian gladiator, an Ethiopian king or an African warrior to bedevil Tarzan.

You can check his filmography on the Internet Movie Database at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0834754/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 .

While he was getting his movie and TV career rolling in the 1950s, Strode was also performing as a popular professional TV wrestler on the California circuit.

My perusal of his film credits tells me that if I want to get the true flavor of Strode's acting chops, I need to catch the 1960 film Sergeant Rutledge the next time its on.

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