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
Redd Foxx, who knew former heavyweight champ Jack Johnson, whose career and struggle against racism inspired the original play, turned down a role in the film as he believed it was not a true picture of his old friend. See more »
In the first scene in which we see Jefferson practicing, the sweat on his shirt changes from shot to shot in a way that wouldn't be predicted by evaporation. See more »
Now you're the first black man in the history of the ring who's ever had a crack at the heavyweight title. Now white folks, of course, are behind Brady. He's the redeemer of the race and so on. But you, Jack Jefferson, are you the black hope?
Well, I'm black and I'm hopin'.
Answer him straight, Jack.
Hey, look, man, I ain't fighting for no race, I ain't redeeming nobody. My mama told me *Mr. Lincoln* done that. Ain't that why you shot him?
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Screenplay by Howard Sackler Based on his play See more »
In the early 20th century, boxer James Earl Jones (as Jack Jefferson) fights his main battles outside of the ring. He becomes the first "black" heavyweight champion of the world, but Mr. Jones finds the going gets tough after shacking up with "white" woman Jane Alexander (as Eleanor Backman). Back then, most people did not cotton to race mixing. Eventually, the battle infects Jones' relationship with Ms. Alexander. This film doesn't do justice to Howard Sackler's award-winning play, but it is worthwhile in several respects. Highlights include Irene Sharaff's crisp costumes, the later locations and several notable performances - especially Jones' charismatic and powerful lead.
******* The Great White Hope (10/11/70) Martin Ritt ~ James Earl Jones, Jane Alexander, Chester Morris, Hal Holbrook
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