You remember actor Woody Strode as the gladiator who fought Kirk Douglas in the arena in Spartacus, (see above video) or as one of The Professionals along with Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin and Robert Ryan.
Woody has left us, but did you know that he's still performing at Disneyland?
According to Disneyland Vice President Tony Baxter:
"In 1954, Harper Goeff, the designer of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, hired Woody to make a mold of his great muscularity for the African natives in that ride. Goeff also used the same mold for the bodies of Frontierland's Native Americans, too."
A world-class decathlon athlete, Woody attended UCLA and was one of the first Afro-Americans to play in major college programs and later the National Football League.
During World War 2, he enlisted and spent the war unloading bombs in Guam.
Getting into acting, Woody first appeared in John Ford's Stagecoach in 1929. His 6ft. 4 in. powerful frame kept him from stereotypical roles at that time in film history. His acting career continued in 92 movies and TV episodes, ending with The Quick and the Dead in 1995.
Notable movies Woody appeared in are: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (with John Wayne & James Steward), Sergeant Rutledge (in the title role), The Ten Commandments (playing two roles), Pork Chop Hill (starring Gregory Peck), and Once Apon a Time in the West (in the famous opening).
My favorite of Woody's movies is The Last Voyage. He is the heroic crewman who stays aboard the sinking luxury liner to help the passengers. He plays the entire movie with his shirt off because he comes directly from the hot engine room and the movie plays in real time. His physique is enhanced by the neckerchief he wears. (See above photo.) I wonder if that was Woody's idea or the costume designer's.
I had the pleasure of meeting Woody and his wife. He was very gracious and appreciated his success in the movies. I talked to him about filming The Last Voyage on a real ship that was partually sunk for the exciting finale.
When I mentioned Spartacus, Woody jumped up from his chair and got into his gladiator stance and said, "Because I was much taller than Kirk, I had to use a low stance like this."
"That stance showed off your thighs," I said seriously. "They were beautiful." (Echoing the Roman woman in the movie that said, "He's the most beautiful.") Woody and his wife gave me a big smile. Later in his auto-biography, I read that he likes guys to compliment his physic and athletic prowess.
Woody always signed his Spartacus photos by inscribing:
I let Spartacus live - Woody Strode