Boxer Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones) is the world's reigning heavyweight boxing champion. There's just one problem, he is also the first black heavyweight champion, and that bothers a lot of people. Jack's celebration is cut short, as Jack is framed for crossing a state line with Eleanor, his white fiancé (Jane Alexander in her first film role), a violation of the Mann Act. Facing a prison sentence, Jack escapes to Europe, with Eleanor in tow, encountering problems in England, and then France, and eventually landing in Cuba. In Havana, Jack agrees to enter the boxing ring for what might be the bout of his life. Both Jones and Alexander were nominated for Oscars. Written by
The title is no misnomer:although the movie tells the story of a black champion,"they " get out of their way to thwart this living "threat " for the white race;as users noticed it ,do not watch it if you expect "rocky": it's its exact contrary ,a failure story.
James Earl Jones portrays this fighter with a great dignity till the last pictures:he is bullied ,humiliated,persecuted;the best scene is for me that ridiculous performance of "Uncle Tom's cabin" on stage,with Jones and Alexander wearing wigs ,and playing the slave and Evangeline .
If Jones is not Rocky,Jane Alexander is not Adrian either;first of all ,she is white and well meaning were not prepared to accept it at the time (we are far from "guess who's coming to dine" in which a white bubble head girl is to marry a black future Nobel Prize).Alexander's transformation is extraordinary: a shy elegant lady in the first sequence,then a defiant woman during her "questioning",a partner who accompanies the champion in all his sufferings and humiliations -she is sublime as Eva ,the part of a little girl- and finally a broken human being,living in poverty,beaten by the man she loves in spite of all.
This is a movie for people with a strong heart ,and Martin Ritt always was an activist director ;I'd tone it a bit : he had always thought that France was the country where there was no racism (see also "Paris blues ,1961):it's wishful thinking.
That said ,you should not miss this courageous work.
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