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March 20, 2008

Remembering Ivan Dixon

The actor Ivan Dixon died on March 16 in Charlotte, NC, while the media were buzzing about the need for more "dialogue about race." Too often, that means another recycling of the same-ol'-same-'ol, cliches and recriminations, until we grow weary and shut it down again.

We don't need any more of that. We need a 21st-century version of Nothing But a Man (1964), the quiet, eloquent film starring Mr. Dixon as a working man who marries a preacher's daughter (Abbey Lincoln) and insists on being treated respectfully by everyone he meets. That's it. But for a long time after I first saw it in the 1970s, it was my favorite film (and, I gather, Malcolm X's).

Nothing But a Man is available on DVD, and from the first black-and-white frame (I am referring to the film stock), you will see that it is of a different era. But if you stay with it, you will also see that some treatments of race do not grow tiresome, because they are simply, straightforwardly human. That's why I remember Ivan Dixon.

Posted by mbayles at March 20, 2008 8:57 AM