BLACK lawman focus of Oklahoma film

Monday, May 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PAWNEE, Okla. (AP) _ Bass Reeves was once a household name in Oklahoma Indian Territory.

Now, Marlon Edwards, a Langston University graduate, wants to revive the frontier lawman's name and story through a feature film, ``The Black Marshal: The Hunt for Dozier.''

The straight-to-video film chronicles a portion of the life of Reeves, a black deputy U.S. marshal in Oklahoma Indian Territory.

``I knew for my first feature that I wanted to do a western,'' said Edwards, who stars, co-produces and directs the film. ``I particularly wanted to use a lawman.''

Edwards said he discovered Reeves story after a friend had asked him to portray the lawman in a play.

Although he wasn't in the play, Edwards said Reeves image stayed with him.

``I came across several marshals who did great things, but something about Bass Reeves just stood out to me,'' Edwards said. ``I just decided from there I was going to do it for him.''

Edwards said Reeves was an interesting man who could neither read nor write, but spoke several Indian dialects.

During his 32-year reign as deputy U.S. marshal, Reeves served more than 3,000 arrest warrants, killed 14 men and was never wounded in the line of duty.

``He is not in the history books and he should be,'' Edwards said. ``A lot of people don't know that 1 out of 3 cowboys were black.''

Edward's film chronicles a section of Reeves' life when he was trailing and eventually captured an outlaw named Bob Dozier.

``Bass was so proud that he was able to capture him and it nearly cost him his life,'' Edwards said. ``That's why I decided to focus on that part of his life for the picture.''

After graduating from Langston, Edwards received his masters degree in creative writing from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

He began acting and has appeared in several television commercials and plays.

The Reeves' film is his second media project, having created a 20-minute film a few years ago.

Filming for ``Black Marshal'' began last August.

Part of the filming included scenes shot at a log cabin.

``Since last summer, I have been looking for a house for one of the main characters,'' Edwards said. ``I have been all over Oklahoma and not been able to find the type of log cabin that I was looking for anywhere.''

Edwards contacted Randy Ledford, manager of the Pawnee Bill Ranch, and discovered the cabin he was looking for was there.

Edwards said having several jobs on the production has been challenging.

``I have my hand in everything,'' he said. ``I have a real good crew to help me out on things. It's been difficult at times, but we have gotten through it.''

Edwards wrote the ``Black Marshal'' script in about two weeks after extensive research on Reeves.

That research yielded some interesting facts about the lawman.

Edwards learned Reeves had to track his son after he killed his wife in a crime of passion and turn him into the justice system.

After retiring from the marshal service, Reeves went on to become a policeman in Muskogee. He died in 1910.

All filming for ``Black Marshal'' is taking place in-state.

Edwards said he wanted to do the film in Oklahoma for a simple reason.

``Hollywood doesn't necessarily see Oklahoma as a viable place to do a lot of projects and use a lot of Oklahoma people,'' Edwards said. ``That is what this film is going to introduce. There are a lot of talented people here in Oklahoma that the rest of the nation do not know about. I am hoping to really open some eyes around here.''

Edwards hopes to have the film in the video stores by summer. He is still seeking a major distributor for the film.

For the film credits, he is using his stage name Lee Marlon Newton.

Edwards said ``Black Marshal'' should shine some light on Bass Reeves role in history.

``What he did in his life is important to me and its important to history,'' Edwards said. ``That's why I am doing it.''