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The Great White Hope (1970)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Romance, Sport  |  16 October 1970 (USA)
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Reviews: 27 user | 13 critic

A black champion boxer and his white female companion struggle to survive while the white boxing establishment looks for ways to knock him down.



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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lou Gilbert ...
Joel Fluellen ...
Marlene Warfield ...
Mama Tiny
Lloyd Gough ...
George Ebeling ...
Roy Glenn ...
Pastor (as Roy E. Glenn Sr.)


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 trivwhiz

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

champion | boxer | boxing | havana | europe | See All (72) »


The Great White Hope...So Great! See more »


Drama | Romance | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, and for language including racist dialogue | See all certifications »




| | |

Release Date:

16 October 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

L'insurgé  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In addition to Jack Jefferson being based on Jack Johnson, several other characters are based on real life individuals. Frank Brady is a stand-in for Jim Jeffries, the former heavyweight champion who came out of retirement to try to end Johnson's title reign, Cap'n Dan is based on "Gentleman" Jim Corbett, the racist former champion refused to fight black men as champion, and the Kid is a stand-in for Jess Willard, the fighter who eventually beat Johnson for the title in Havana in 1915. Eleanor is a composite of two white women Johnson married, Etta Duryea (who, like Eleanor, committed suicide), and Lucille Cameron, who he fled the country with after being convicted. 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 »


Reporter: 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?
Jack Jefferson: Well, I'm black and I'm hopin'.
Goldie: Answer him straight, Jack.
Jack Jefferson: 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?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Screenplay by Howard Sackler Based on his play See more »


Referenced in The Jeffersons: Homecoming: Part 2 (1978) See more »


Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay
Written by Henry J. Sayers
Arranged by Lionel Newman
See more »

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User Reviews

A TKO for James Earl Jones
14 August 2011 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

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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