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Spirit of Youth (1938)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, Sport | 1 April 1938 (USA)
The story of the rise of boxer Joe Thomas, which paralleled the life of Joe Louis.


(as Harry Fraser)


(original screenplay)

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Complete credited cast:
Joe Thomas
Frankie Walburn
Edna Mae Harris ...
Mary Bowdin
Mae Turner ...
Flora Bailey
Cleo Desmond ...
Nora Thomas
Creighton 'Crickie' Fitzgibbons
Jewel Smith ...
Duke Emerald
Tom Southern ...
Dr. Bowdin
Jess Lee Brooks ...
Jeff Thomas (as Jesse Lee Brooks)
Marguerite Whitten ...
Eleanor Thomas (as Margaret Whitten)
Clarence Brooks ...
The Plantation Chior ...
Church Choir
The Creole Chorus ...
The Creole Chorus
The Big Apple Dancers ...


The story of the rise of boxer Joe Thomas, which paralleled the life of Joe Louis.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama | Sport






Release Date:

1 April 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La vida de Joe Louis  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA High Fidelity Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Production Code Administration director, Joseph Breen, told the production company that the movie was "questionable" because it showed a black boxer beating white boxers, and that distribution in the South may be difficult. See more »


Featured in Movies of Color: Black Southern Cinema (2002) See more »


No More Sleepy Time
Written by Clarence Muse and Elliot Carpenter
Sung during the opening credits by The Creole Chorus
See more »

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User Reviews

A Joe Louis Production
3 May 2015 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

With the minimal dialog that Joe Louis is given in a production starring himself you'd hardly believe that he's in Bartlett's Quotations twice. But the man who said 'we're on God's side' and 'he can run but he can't hide' has little to say in Spirit Of Youth. That's because his managers John Roxborough and Julian Black knew that as an actor Joe Louis was a great heavyweight champion.

This film was part of a money making scheme that Roxborough and Black set up for Louis and note in the credits they cut themselves in for a piece of the action as 'technical advisers'. When Spirit Of Youth came out Louis had been heavyweight champion for a year and he was a hot property that his handlers looked to exploit and the black cinema of the time was one way to do it.

Louis plays Joe Thomas, a black sharecropper kid from Alabama who goes north to Detroit as thousands did in those days to get a job and make some real money. He finds he has talent in his fists and works hard to become heavyweight champion. In other words, someone like Joe Louis.

Short lived poverty row studio Grand National picked up the distribution of this film giving it an access to mainstream markets that most black productions didn't have. Spirit Of Youth also had in the cast Clarence Muse and Mantan Moreland who did appear in lots of mainstream films and were familiar to white audiences.

Muse is a character modeled on John Roxborough and Moreland plays his corner man much as Jack Blackburn was in real life. Blackburn however was a former boxer himself so Louis would never have to come to his rescue as he does with Moreland. In scenes with both Muse and Moreland Joe's deficiencies as a thespian are painfully apparent.

As for the plot he's a clean living kid with talents as pugilist who gets led astray by bad girl Mae Turner, but is pulled back on the straight and narrow by Edna Mae Harris.

Joe Louis was a great heavyweight and a great man from the last century, pity he did not a get film to go with it. After his career was over there was a Joe Louis Story film done with Coley Wallace in the lead. In production values not much better than this, but at least an actor was in the lead.

Still it made the money it was supposed to and that was its object. No one here thought they were creating great cinematic art.

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