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
It's criminal that this movie doesn't get the type of attention or respect it deserves. Great White Hope chronicles the life of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, and his bouts with the racism of the 1900s. Before this movie, I never understood where James Earl Jones got his reputation from. Clearly it's from this. He commands all of the scenes he's shot in, demonstrating a mastery of his craft that I've rarely with any other actor. Jones rages and roars through the movie, conveying a mixture of pride and frailty that is simply not to be missed.
At the risk of being redundant: don't sleep on this movie. It's James Earl Jones at his best.
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