Woody Strode

Woody Strode, 80, muscular character actor who appeared in many action films and several John Ford pictures, died in his sleep Dec. 31 in Los Angeles. He was diagnosed with cancer a year ago.

Born in Los Angeles in 1914, Strode entered UCLA in 1936 on a football scholarship and later was a defensive end with the Los Angeles Rams as well as in the Canadian Football League. He also worked as a professional wrestler.

Although he had made his film debut in 1941 in “Sundown,” the imposing, 6-foot 4inch black actor didn’t begin to work regularly until the 1950s, when he was seen in the likes of “The Lion Hunters,” “The City Beneath the Sea,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Androcles and the Lion,” “The Buccaneer,” “Tarzan’s Fight for Life” and “Pork Chop Hill.” He also co-starred in the TV series “Rama of the Jungle.”

In 1960, he played the title role of a soldier on trial for murder and rape in Ford’s “Sergeant Rutledge,” one of his best-known performances. He subsequently acted for Ford in “Two Rode Together,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and “Seven Women.”

One of Strode’s most notable, and physical, roles was as a gladiator who fights Kirk Douglas to the death in “Spartacus.” He also appeared in “The Sins of Rachel Cade,” “Major Dundee” and “Mackenna’s Gold,” and costarred with Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan and Claudia Cardinale in “The Professionals” but, from the mid ’60s on, worked more often in Europe, where he became a star in spaghetti westerns and earned substantial fees.

Among his many later credits were “Genghis Khan,” “Black Jesus,” “Once Upon A Time In The West,” “Shalako,” “Che!,” “The Deserter,” “The Last Rebel,” “The Revengers,” “The Italian Connection,” “The Gatling Gun,” “Winterhawk,” “Kingdom of the Spiders,” “Ravagers,” “Jaguar Lives,” “Cuba Crossing,” “The Mercenaries,” “The Black Stallion Returns,” “The Cotton Club,” “Lust in the Dust,” “Super Brother,” “Storyville” and “Posse.”

He had just completed a role in the upcoming movie “The Quick and the Dead” with Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman.

He is survived by a daughter.

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