‘The Harder They Fall’ is a modern western that follows Nat Love on the journey to avenge the death of his parents. After seeing them brutally murdered by a notorious outlaw, Nat turns to a life of “righteous crime” and begins to steal from criminals. His gang faithfully buys into our hero’s convoluted sense of justice and even follows him into battle against the notorious Rufus Buck, who is revealed to be responsible for the death of Nat’s parents. The intriguing tale doesn’t end there, and the film’s climactic showdown consists of a twist that leaves Nat crushed when he finds out that the hateful Rufus might just be his brother. Could this be the case? Let’s dig in and find out!
Who Was The Nat Love Gang?
In the film, Nat Love and his gang, The Nat Love Gang, have a reputation for stealing from outlaws but never attacking innocent civilians or banks themselves. The gang consists of its titular leader, Bill Pickett, Jim Beckworth, former member Mary Fields, and Cuffee, who only joins the gang when they take on Rufus Buck.
In reality, the Nat Love Gang never existed. However, Nat Love did and was reportedly born in June 1854 to enslaved parents on Robert Love’s plantation in Davidson County, Tennessee. Nat’s reputation as a horse trainer soon earned him enough money to leave the plantation and move west by the time he was 16. He allegedly won multiple rodeo contests, and at one point, also earned the famous nickname “Deadwood Dick.” In fact, Nat even wrote an autobiography titled ‘The Life and Adventures of Nat Love,’ which was originally published in 1907 and remains the source for much of this information.
Were Nat Love and Rufus Buck Brothers?
In ‘The Harder They Fall,’ the climactic showdown is accompanied by an explosive revelation that Rufus Buck and Nat Love are brothers. Their father, who was an alcoholic and regularly abused Rufus as a child, eventually killed Rufus’ mother and abandoned the young boy. He then reformed his habits and married the woman who eventually bore Nat. When Rufus finally tracks down his father, he kills him and his second wife (Nat’s mother) as revenge, which we see in the film’s opening scenes.
Therefore, Nat grows up only knowing that Rufus killed his parents but is ignorant of the fact that they are related. When Rufus finally reveals this to Nat, he repeatedly calls him Nathaniel Buck, insisting that is his real name. Hence, it is suggested that their father’s family name was initially Buck, which he later changed to Love before marrying Nat’s mother.
Despite the characters of both Nat Love and Rufus Buck being inspired by real-life individuals, their story differs greatly in reality. The actual Nat Love and Rufus Buck, though active roughly around the same time, likely never crossed paths and were certainly not brothers. The film also depicts Rufus as a few decades older than Nat, but in reality, the latter was seemingly much older than the former. Perhaps most notably, there is no proof that Rufus Buck killed the real Nat Love’s parents.
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