Born Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode in Los Angeles on July 25, 1914, actor Woody Strode was born in to a Native American/African American family. Playing football at Jefferson High School in the early 1930s, his 6'4" frame and natural athleticism led him to attend UCLA in the mid 1930s, where he excelled at football and track. In the late 1930s, he played football for UCLA but turned to professional wrestling when he graduated, as football was not integrated at the time. In the late 1930s, he began acting in films in small, uncredited roles; the first of these was John Ford's Stagecoach (1939; with John Wayne and John Carradine) and marked the beginning of Strode's friendship with the famed director. In 1940, Strode married his first wife, Luana, who was Hawaiian. Soon, his marriage and athletic career were interrupted by his enlistment in the Army. Upon returning from the war, in 1946 Strode was signed to play football for the Los Angeles Rams but later moved to Calgary to play football in Canada. However, a shoulder injury forced him into retirement in 1949. With a family to support, Strode turned to professional wrestling and embarked upon an acting career. Frequently appearing on television alongside wrestler Gorgeous George, he quit wrestling to focus solely on acting in 1962 (around the same time that campy wrestler Gorgeous George retired), when he was nearing fifty years old.

Woody Strode and Gorgeous GeorgeWoody Strode

LEFT: Wrestling with frequent opponent Gorgeous George in the early 1950s. RIGHT: Wrestling still from the early 1950s

The handsome Strode often portrayed African warriors earlier in his career, including the films The Lion Hunters (1951 with Johnny Sheffield), Tarzan's Fight for Life (1958; with Gordon Scott), and Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963; with Jock Mahoney). As he transitioned into westerns in the 1960s, due to his Native American ancestry and looks Strode occasionally portrayed Native Americans in such films as John Ford's Two Rode Together (1961; with James Stewart and Richard Widmark). John Ford cast the actor in his best role in the western Sergeant Rutledge (1960; with Jeffrey Hunter and Constance Towers), in which Strode portrayed the title character. Strode's personal and professional relationship with Ford continued in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962; with James Stewart, John Wayne, and Vera Miles) and 7 Women (1966; with Anne Bancroft), which proved to be Ford's final film. Strode and Ford maintained a close friendship which lasted until Ford's death from cancer in August 1973, and Strode took care of the director during his final days.

With his acting career in high gear in the 1960s, Strode was cast in the western The Professionals (1966; with Burt Lancaster and Jack Palance), the biggest film of his career. In order to capitalize on the growing trend of spaghetti westerns, he moved to Italy in early 1968 to act in a string of films, such as Black Jesus (1968), Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968; with Henry Fonda), and The Last Rebel (1971; with Joe Namath), returning to the U.S. in late 1972. Strode was highly paid for his work in Italy, often making more than $150,000 per film, and he also performed his own stunts.

the films of woody strode

The Lion Hunters (1951)

Woody Strode

As Walu in Monogram's Bomba film The Lion Hunters. This was Strode's first credited appearance in a film

City Beneath the Sea (1953)

Anthony Quinn and Woody StrodeWoody Strode

LEFT: With Anthony Quinn in the Universal-International adventure City Beneath the Sea. RIGHT: As Djion

Tarzan's Fight for Life (1958)

Gordon Scott and Woody Strode

From MGM's thrilling adventure Tarzan's Fight for Life with Gordon Scott

Sergeant Rutledge (1960)

Woody Strode, Jeffrey Hunter, and Constance Towers

With Jeffrey Hunter and Constance Towers in the John Ford western Sergeant Rutledge. Strode portrays the title character in the best picture of his career

Spartacus (1960)

Kirk Douglas and Woody Strode

Strode, as gladiator Draba, is murdered for sparing the life of Spartacus (Kirk Douglas) in Stanley Kubrick's adventure Spartacus

Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963)

Woody Strode and Jock MahoneyWoody Strode and Jock Mahoney

From MGM's Tarzan's Three Challenges with Jock Mahoney

The Professionals (1966)

Woody Strode

From Columbia's western The Professionals, shot near Las Vegas

Black Jesus (1968)

Woody Strode

Strode stars as Maurice Lalubi in the Italian-made biopic Black Jesus

Che! (1969)

Woody Strode and Omar Sharif

With Omar Shariff as the title character in the 20th Century Fox biopic Che!

Tarzan's Deadly Silence (1970)

Jock Mahoney and Woody Strode

With Jock Mahoney in Tarzan's Deadly Silence. This film is actually an edited version of a 1966 two-part episode from Ron Ely's NBC Tarzan series

The Last Rebel (1971)

Woody Strode and Joe NamathWoody Strode and Joe Namath

From the Italian western The Last Rebel with Joe Namath

The Deserter (1971)

Woody Strode

From the Dino De Laurentiis western The Deserter, released by Paramount

The Italian Connection (1972)

Woody Strode, Luciana Paluzzi, and Henry SilvaWoody Strode and Henry Silva

LEFT: With Luciana Paluzzi and Henry Silva in the violent Italian crime flick The Italian Connection. RIGHT: With Henry Silva

The Revengers (1972)

William Holden and Woody Strode

With William Holden in the western The Revengers, shot in Mexico

The Black Stallion Returns (1983)

Woody Strode

Strode as Meslar in the family film The Black Stallion Returns, released by MGM

later years

Woody Strode's career remained strong in the 1970s, and although he was still getting roles in films and television shows, by the time Lust in the Dust (1985; with Divine and Tab Hunter) premiered, he went into semi-retirement, spending more time on his ranch. He stayed in fantastic shape by doing 1,000 daily repetitions of situps, squats, and pushups, maintaining this workout regimen into old age. His wife, Luana, passed away in 1980, and Strode remarried in 1982. His final film appearances came in Posse (1993; with Mario Van Peebles) and The Quick and the Dead (1995; with Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman). A trailblazer whose career opened many doors for African American actors, Woody Strode passed away at age 80 on December 31, 1994, after a bout with lung cancer. He was survived by his wife, Tina, and his son and daughter from his first marriage. woody strode dvds available from

woody strode books available


The Quick and the Dead (1995) with Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, and Leonardo DiCaprio
Posse (1993) with Mario Van Peebles, Stephen Baldwin, Billy Zane, Melvin Van Peebles, Tone Loc, and Pam Grier
Storyville (1992) with James Spader, Joanne Whalley, Jason Robards, and Piper Laurie
A Gathering of Old Men (1987) with Louis Gossett Jr., Richard Widmark, and Holly Hunter
On Fire (1987) with Carroll Baker and John Forsythe
Lust in the Dust (1985) with Tab Hunter, Divine, Lainie Kazan, Geoffrey Lewis, Henry Silva, and Cesar Romero
The Cotton Club (1984) with Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, Nicolas Cage, Fred Gwynne, and Gwen Verdon
Jungle Warriors (1984) with John Vernon, Alex Cord, Sybil Danning, Marjoe Gortner, and Dana Elcar
The Final Executioner (1984) with William Mang
The Violent Breed (1984) with Henry Silva
The Black Stallion Returns (1983) with Vincent Spano and Teri Garr
Vigilante (1983) with Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, Rutanya Alda, and Carol Lynley
Invaders of the Lost Gold (1982) with Stuart Whitman, Edmund Purdom, and Harold Sakata
Angkor: Cambodia Express (1982) with Robert Walker Jr., Christopher George, and Nancy Kwan
Scream (1981) with Ethan Wayne and Alvy Moore
Kill Castro (1980) with Stuart Whitman, Robert Vaughn, Albert Salmi, Sybil Danning, and Caren Kaye
Jaguar Lives! (1979) with Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence, Barbara Bach, and Capucine
Ravagers (1979) with Richard Harris, Art Carney, Ann Turkel, Alana Stewart, and Ernest Borgnine
Cuibul salamandrelor (1978) with Stuart Whitman, Tony Kendall, William Berger, and Gordon Mitchell
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) with William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, and Altovise Davis
Martinelli, Outside Man (1977) with Ron Leibman, Robert Donner, Janet Margolin, and Nicholas Pryor
Keoma (1976) with Franco Nero and William Berger
Winterhawk (1975) with Leif Erickson, Denver Pyle, L.Q. Jones, Elisha Cook Jr., Arthur Hunnicutt, and Dawn Wells
Noi non siamo angeli (1975) with John Ireland
Loaded Guns (1975) with Ursula Andress
Key West (1973) with Stephen Boyd, Tiffany Bolling, Simon Oakland, Ford Rainey, and Sheree North
The Gatling Gun (1973) with Guy Stockwell, Robert Fuller, Barbara Luna, Patrick Wayne, Pat Buttram, John Carradine, and Phil Harris
Scipio the African (1972) with Marcello Mastroianni, Silvana Mangano, and Vittorio Gassman
The Italian Connection (1972) with Henry Silva, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Cyril Cusack, and Sylva Koscina
The Revengers (1972) with William Holden , Ernest Borgnine, Arthur Hunnicutt, and Larry Pennell
The Last Rebel (1971) with Joe Namath, Jack Elam, Ty Hardin, and Michael Forest
The Deserter (1971) with Richard Crenna, Chuck Connors, Ricardo Montalban, Brandon De Wilde, Slim Pickens, Albert Salmi, Patrick Wayne, and Mimmo Palmara
Breakout (1970) with Red Buttons
The Unholy Four (1970) with George Eastman
Boot Hill (1969) with Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, George Eastman, Victor Buono, and Lionel Stander
Che! (1969) with Omar Sharif, Jack Palance, Cesare Danova, Robert Loggia, and Barbara Luna
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) with Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam, Keenan Wynn, and Lionel Stander
Shalako (1968) with Sean Connery, Brigitte Bardot, Stephen Boyd, Peter van Eyck, and Honor Blackman
Black Jesus (1968)
The Professionals (1966) with Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Jack Palance, Claudia Cardinale, and Ralph Bellamy
7 Women (1966) with Anne Bancroft, Sue Lyon, Margaret Leighton, Flora Robson, Mildred Dunnock, Betty Field, Anna Lee, and Eddie Albert
Genghis Khan (1965) with Stephen Boyd, Omar Sharif, James Mason, Eli Wallach, Telly Savalas, and Robert Morley
Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963) with Jock Mahoney
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) with John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O'Brien, Andy Devine, Ken Murray, John Carradine, and Jeanette Nolan
Two Rode Together (1961) with James Stewart, Richard Widmark, Shirley Jones, Linda Cristal, and Andy Devine
The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961) with Angie Dickinson, Peter Finch, Roger Moore, Mary Wickes, and Scatman Crothers
Spartacus (1960) with Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Nina Foch, John Ireland, Herbert Lom, and John Dall
Sergeant Rutledge (1960) with Jeffrey Hunter, Constance Towers, and Billie Burke
The Last Voyage (1960) with Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, George Sanders, and Edmond O'Brien
Pork Chop Hill (1959) with Gregory Peck, Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, George Peppard, Norman Fell, and Robert Blake
The Buccaneer (1958) with Yul Brynner, Claire Bloom, Charles Boyer, Inger Stevens, Henry Hull, E.G. Marshall, Charlton Heston, and Lorne Greene
Tarzan's Fight for Life (1958) with Gordon Scott and Eve Brent
The Ten Commandments (1956) with Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, and John Derek
Buruuba (1955)
The Gambler from Natchez (1954) with Dale Robertson, Debra Paget, and Kevin McCarthy
City Beneath the Sea (1953) with Robert Ryan, Mala Powers, Anthony Quinn, Suzan Ball, and Karel Stepanek
Androcles and the Lion (1952) with Jean Simmons, Victor Mature, Alan Young, Maurice Evans, Elsa Lanchester, Alan Mowbray, John Hoyt, and Jim Backus
Caribbean (1952) with John Payne, Arlene Dahl, Cedric Hardwicke, and John Hart
Bride of the Gorilla (1951) with Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney Jr., Raymond Burr, and Tom Conway
The Lion Hunters (1951) with Johnny Sheffield and Morris Ankrum

Fantasy Island, episode The Proxy Billionaire/The Experiment, originally aired March 21, 1981
The Dukes of Hazzard, episode The Great Santa Claus Chase, originally aired December 19, 1980
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, episode Return of the Fighting 69th, originally aired October 25, 1979
The Quest, episode The Longest Drive: Parts 1 and 2, originally aired December 1 and 8, 1976
The Manhunter, episode Trial by Terror, originally aired March 5, 1975
Tarzan, episode End of a Challenge, originally aired February 16, 1968
Tarzan, episode The Perils of Charity Jones: Parts 1 and 2, originally aired March 10 and 17, 1967
Batman, episode Marsha's Scheme of Diamonds, originally aired November 24, 1966
Batman, episode Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, originally aired November 23, 1966
Tarzan, episode The Deadly Silence: Parts 1 and 2, originally aired October 28 and November 4, 1966
Tarzan, episode The Three Faces of Death, originally aired October 14, 1966
Tarzan, episode The Prisoner, originally aired October 7, 1966
Daniel Boone, episode Goliath, originally aired September 29, 1966
The Farmer's Daughter, episode My Son, the Athlete, originally aired May 13, 1964
The Lieutenant, episode To Set It Right, originally aired February 22, 1964
Rawhide, episode Incident of the Boomerang, originally aired March 24, 1961
Rawhide, episode Incident of the Buffalo Soldier, originally aired January 6, 1961
The Man from Blackhawk, episode The Savage, originally aired January 15, 1960
Jungle Jim, episode The Leopard's Paw, originally aired December 5, 1955
Soldiers of Fortune, episode Drums of Far Island, originally aired August 12, 1955
Ramar of the Jungle, episode King of the Watus, originally aired December 4, 1953
Ramar of the Jungle, episode Thunder Over Sangoland, originally aired October 3, 1953
Ramar of the Jungle, episode Voice of the Past, originally aired September 5, 1953
Dangerous Assignment, episode The Pat and Mike Story, originally aired May 12, 1952

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Watch Woody Strode in the 1977 horror film Kingdom of the Spiders
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