Nothing But a Man (1964): Michael Roemer’s Seminal Indie

Nothing But a Man is a seminal indie feature, starring Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln, and directed by Michael Roemer, who co-wrote the scenario with Robert M. Young.

Roemer drew on his own background as a persecuted Jew, having fled Nazi Germany as an 11-year-old child on the Kindertransports.

Roemer (also Jwish) and Young conducted sort of anthropological survey by visiting the South, taking risks as they were mistreated as pariahs by white men who harassed them.

Set in the 1960s, he low-budget film tells the story of Duff Anderson, an African-American railroad worker who tries to maintain his respect and dignity in a racist small town near Birmingham, Alabama, after marrying the local preacher’s daughter.

Forced to deal with oppression and discrimination, Anderson must also come to terms with his troubled relationship with his father, a drunkard who had abandoned and rejected him.

Nothing But a Man world-premiered on September 19, 1964 at the New York Film Festival. Though the film was not widely seen upon initial release, it is now considered to be a sampler of neo-realistic American independent cinema.

In 1993, it was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Cast
Ivan Dixon as Duff Anderson
Abbey Lincoln as Josie Dawson
Yaphet Kotto as Jocko
Leonard Parker as Frankie
Stanley Green as Reverend Dawson
Eugene Wood as Johnson
Helen Lounck as Effie Simms
Julius Harris as Will Anderson, Duff’s father
Gloria Foster as Lee
Gertrude Jeannette as Mrs. Dawson
Tom Ligon as Teenager
William Jordan as Teenager

Credits:

Produced and directed by Michael Roemer

Written by Roemer and Robert M. Young
Cinematography: Robert M. Young
Distributed by Cinema V
Running time: 95 minutes

Note:

TCM showed the film on March 26, 2020.