Nothing But a Man (1963) - Rotten Tomatoes

Nothing But a Man (1963)



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Movie Info

A landmark independent film, Nothing but a Man is the first dramatic story featuring a largely black cast created for an integrated audience (the work of black filmmakers such as Oscar Micheaux was intended for audiences who patronized black-only theaters). White filmmakers Michael Roemer and Robert M. Young traveled through the South in 1962 in search of ideas for a fiction feature set during the growing turbulence of the civil rights era. Their story, based in Alabama but shot in southern New Jersey, is only tangentially related to the movement toward equality. Duff, an itinerant black railroad laborer (Ivan Dixon), romances and marries Josie, a small-town preacher's daughter (Abbey Lincoln). Duff insists on being treated with respect, but his stance is personal rather than political. After he settles down in the town with Josie, he comes up against white bosses who want to make sure he knows his place and black men such as Josie's father who don't want to rock the boat for fear of losing what little advantage they have. Duff's relationship with his own father (Julius Harris), a broken-down drunk living in Birmingham, teaches him valuable lessons about dignity and self-worth. The film was lauded at both the New York and Venice festivals but received limited release in theaters specializing in foreign and independent film. However, word of mouth in the black community (where Nothing but a Man was for years a staple on the 16 mm rental market, in the days before VCRs) and continued attention by film historians have ensured the status of Nothing but a Man as a pioneering and enduring work. ~ Tom Wiener, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Robert M. Young, Michael Roemer
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 28, 2004
Box Office: $9.2k
New Video


Ivan Dixon
as Duff Anderson
Julius Harris
as Will Anderson
Stanley Greene
as Rev. Dawson
Helen Lounck
as Effie Simms
Walter Wilson
as Car Owner
Mel Stewart
as Raddick
Ed Rowan
as Willie
Tom Ligon
as Teenager
Stanley Green
as Rev. Dawson
Gertrude Jeanette
as Mrs. Dawson
Richard Weber
as Bud Ellis
Eugene Wood
as Schoolteacher
Jim Wright
as Bartender
Jary Banks
as Bessie
Dorothy Hall
as Soloist
Gil Rogers
as Mill Foreman
Arland Schubert
as Hiring Boss
Bill Riola
as Ginn Foreman
Peter Carew
as Store Keeper
Jay Brooks
as Undertaker
Robert Berger
as Desk Clerk
Richard Ward
as Mill Hand
Moses Gunn
as Mill Hand
Sylvia Ray
as Church Woman
Esther Rolle
as Church Woman
Esther Davis
as Church Woman
William Phillips
as Car Passenger
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Nothing But a Man

Critic Reviews for Nothing But a Man

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (8)

So astute about the economic and racial politics of the Jim Crow South, and particularly about the trauma suffered by black men struggling for respectability, that it's hard to believe it was made by two white guys ...

Full Review… | October 7, 2014
Village Voice
Top Critic

The title almost suggests manhood as something trifling. The film, however, confirms it's a mighty hard ideal to reach.

Full Review… | November 7, 2012
Village Voice
Top Critic

Its historical import as a peripheral civil-rights document can't be understated.

Full Review… | November 6, 2012
Time Out
Top Critic

[Roemer] and his collaborators create images and sounds, characters and situations, that embody the title's existential affirmation.

Full Review… | October 1, 2012
New Yorker
Top Critic

A sincere, intelligent, and effectively acted independent feature.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A quietly stirring, beautiful little movie shot in black and white, it hasn't aged a microsecond.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Nothing But a Man


I became engrossed with Nothing But a Man recently, which is the story of a young, black man in Alabama of the 1960's and his journey in becoming a strong and responsible husband and father. In a way, it feels as though you're watching a documentary. Excellent work from Ivan Dixon (Kinch...for those familiar w/ Hogan's Hero), Abbey Lincoln, Gloria Foster, Julius Harris and Yaphet Kotto with bit parts for Moses Gunn and Richard Ward.

Moe E

Super Reviewer

A man trying to make a voice while making inner changes for himself. I thought the main character's father (Harris) played an outstanding role for being an alcoholic father who never cared about his son.

Jojo Shek

Super Reviewer

With all of the nascent interest in "Black Film" I fail to fathom how this treasure has escaped mention, it's rarely --- if ever --- talked about. An extraordinary Motown Soundtrack and performances by Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln so powerful that it can be argued they are exact barometers of gauging the Black Experience at the time of its creation. Without this there would NOT be a Black Film Movement.

Jose Vazquez

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