Bill Cosby made a Western. It was called Man and Boy. The movie tells the story of an ex-Union soldier (Cosby) who wins a horse for he and his family, but it is accidentally lost by his son, and the two (man and boy) must go on a cross-desert hunt for the horse and its thief.
It isn’t an extraordinary Western but it contains an extraordinary performance. And that is the role of the horse thief, a man named Lee Christmas, played by Douglas Turner Ward. Christmas first takes the horse and then Cosby’s son. He’s the villain of the picture but the most enjoyable villain a Western-lover could ever wish for. Doug Ward creates the ultimate Western rascal, on par with the notorious bandits played by L.Q. Jones and Strother Martin in Peckinpah’s movies. His performance steals the whole damn show.
Unfortunately, little is written about Douglas Turner Ward, the godfather of Black Theater, actor, director and playwright; I couldn’t find a single clear image of him from Man and Boy. I had the fortune to meet Ward and talk to him recently. He’s a character, as alive and vibrant as the one he plays. In a long career of great achievements, he hasn’t appeared on film or TV much. I only wish that he had and still would because there’s something missing in the halls of cinema because of his absence.
At least there’s Man and Boy and Lee Christmas.