The Great White Hope (1970)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Romance, Sport  |  16 October 1970 (USA)
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Reviews: 28 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 most honored play in the history of Broadway...becomes an electrifying motion picture! 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?


James Earl Jones was the voice of Darth Vader in the 1977 hit movie Star Wars. 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 »


Smith aka Smitty, Evening Mirror Reporter: [about Brady] You still think you can take him?
Jack Jefferson: Well, I ain't saying I can take him straight off, and anyway, that'd be kinda mean. Big holiday fight. Can't send all them people right back home again.
Smith aka Smitty, Evening Mirror Reporter: You're only worry is picking the round?
Jack Jefferson: Yeah, and that takes some thinkin', man. You see, if I lets it go on too long and, you know, just sorta block and keeping him off, then they'll say "well ain't that one shiftless nigger? Why are they all so lazy?" But if I chop him down *too* quick, you know,...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Screenplay by Howard Sackler Based on his play See more »


Referenced in Lean on Me (1989) See more »


Ballin' the Jack
Words by 'Jim Burris (III)'
Music by Chris Smith
See more »

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User Reviews

The little black hope
5 March 2012 | by See all my reviews

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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