‘Thomasine & Bushrod,’ the blaxploitation Western with music by Arthur Lee and Love

Thomasine & Bushrod is one of four movies Super Fly director Gordon Parks, Jr. (son of the director of Shaft) made before his death in a plane crash at the age of 44. Written by its leading man, Max Julien of Psych-Out and The Mack fame, the movie—often called the “black Bonnie and Clyde”—costarred Julien’s longtime girlfriend, the formidable Vonetta McGee. Julien had previously written Cleopatra Jones for McGee, who appeared in the contemporary genre pictures Blacula and Shaft in Africa, but after Warner Brothers cast Tamara Dobson in the title role, the couple undertook this collaboration, a revisionist Western in which two sexy fugitives deal out justice to despicable white sadists.

(Incidentally, this was not McGee’s first Western. A decade after Thomasine & Bushrod, Alex Cox cast McGee in Repo Man on the strength of her performance in “the greatest of all Italian westerns, Sergio Corbucci’s Il Grande Silenzio.”)

Love circa 1973
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s score quotes the melody of the film’s lovely theme song by Arthur Lee of Love, first heard at the 29:20 mark. I assume Julien and Lee knew each other through Hollywood circles; all John Einarson’s Love biography Forever Changes has to say on the subject is that Lee sold Julien his house on Avenida del Sol in the Hollywood Hills before moving to Sherman Oaks in 1975. Lee’s “Thomasine & Bushrod” is now available as a bonus track on the CD edition of Black Beauty, the 1973 album recorded by an all-black lineup of Love that sat on the shelves until High Moon released it in 2012. This less-than-optimal-quality sound file is the only version on YouTube:
Arthur Lee, “Thomasine & Bushrod”:

As for the movie, you can now rent it for $2.99 (in SD) or $3.99 (HD) on Amazon or YouTube (embedded below). Lee’s song doesn’t play in full until the end credits. I hope the rattlesnake that bit McGee during filming got a taste of outlaw justice from Jomo’s pistols.

Posted by Oliver Hall
01:53 pm