The Great White Hope (1970)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Romance, Sport  |  16 October 1970 (USA)
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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?


Fictionalized version of true events. 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 »


Cap'n Dan: [Trying to convince Brady to fight Jefferson] Now, Frank, when you retired with that gold belt last summer nobody thought it would work out like this. We just thought, match the two best heavies, and whoever beats who is the top man. Right? Nobody thought the nigger would lick one first, and then go after the other all the way to Australia.
Smith aka Smitty, Evening Mirror Reporter: I was down in Melbourne for the paper, Mr. Brady, and let me tell you, no paper here could print how bad it really was. He'd say, "Wanna hit me now, fella?" ...
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Crazy Credits

Screenplay by Howard Sackler Based on his play See more »


Featured in 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (2009) See more »


When the Saints Go Marching In
Arranged by Lionel Newman
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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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