Image Source: Netflix
The Harder They Fall premiered in theaters on Oct. 22 and made its Netflix debut on Nov. 3. The western focuses on rival gang members Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) and Rufus Buck (Idris Elba), who gather their crews for a fearsome battle after Rufus gets released from prison. Rufus’s crew includes “Treacherous” Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield).
King’s character is a breakout in the film for being a tough outlaw after being abused as a child and killing a bully who made fun of her polio-ridden sister. Rather than being the damsel-in-distress trope like many women in western movies, director Jeymes Samuel wrote Treacherous Trudy as someone not to be messed with. The Harder They Fall opens with a message that says, “While the events of this story are fictional . . . These. People. Existed.” So, who was Treacherous Trudy in real life?
Who Was Treacherous Trudy?
There is little information about the real woman behind Treacherous Trudy, whose real name was Gertrude Smith. King told Variety, “There may be only one image, and there’s not a lot of history written on her.” In a separate interview with BBC, King added, “When I did my Google dive on Gertrude Smith, I tried spelling it lots of different ways, and there isn’t really anything that comes up.” I also tried to Google her and all that came up was The Harder They Fall, so, there’s that.
Similarly, Samuel told IndieWire, “With Treacherous Trudy Smith, little was known about her. But we know she came from Barbary Coast in San Francisco. Then she left, which meant she was well traveled.” According to IndieWire, Trudy was a pickpocket who carried out her crimes with a girl named Dolly Mickey until she was arrested.
How Much of Treacherous Trudy’s Storyline Was Fictionalized?
Because little is known about the real-life Trudy, Samuel and King bent her storyline much more in comparison to the other characters. “So, here I have a space to really just play. I don’t have to be beholden to any certain image or story when it comes to her, and [Samuel] just encouraged me to do that,” King told Variety. One of the ways she played around with the character was with her melded accent, which King “mixed up with a lot of different things, because she’s traveled [to] so many different places and she’s had to spend time with so many different types of people.” The actress also admitted she initially thought the Barbary Coast was in Africa rather than California, so that played into her portrayal of the character.
In fact, most of Treacherous Trudy, aside from her name, was fictionalized. “[W]hen you think about Jeymes and his vision for the film in its entirety,” she told BBC, “it was never his idea to make everyone exactly what people may have read or researched . . . This is more of an extrapolation of people that are real, which I think makes it more stylised, more fun.” The Oscar-winning actress absolutely nailed the character!