7.0/10
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The Great White Hope (1970)

PG-13 | | Drama, Romance, Sport | 16 October 1970 (USA)
A black champion boxer and his white female companion struggle to survive while the white boxing establishment looks for ways to knock him down.

Director:

Writers:

(play), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Lou Gilbert ...
Joel Fluellen ...
Tick
...
...
Marlene Warfield ...
Clara
...
...
Cameron
...
Mama Tiny
...
Scipio
Lloyd Gough ...
Smitty
George Ebeling ...
...
Brady
Roy Glenn ...
Pastor (as Roy E. Glenn Sr.)
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Storyline

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) »

Taglines:

The most honored play in the history of Broadway...becomes an electrifying motion picture! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Country:

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

16 October 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

L'insurgé  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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, and Lucille Cameron, who he fled the country with after being convicted. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Eleanor Backman: You have to stop it, Jack.
Jack Jefferson: All I got to do is to be black and die, lady.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Screenplay by Howard Sackler Based on his play See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Simpsons: The Great Wife Hope (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Spirits Bright
(uncredited)
Traditional
Arranged by Lionel Newman
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User Reviews

 
and we're still dealing with it today...
12 June 2005 | by (Portland, Oregon, USA) – See all my reviews

Recently, Ken Burns wrote an editorial calling on Americans to make amends for what they as a society did to Jack Johnson. "The Great White Hope" shows what American society did to him.

James Earl Jones plays Johnson, called Jack Jefferson here (the movie is fictionalized). He was everything that a black man in the early 20th century was not supposed to be: assertive, proud, and married to a white woman. His wife Eleanor (Jane Alexander) accepted him for who he was. Naturally, white people didn't like their marriage one bit; the black population believed that Johnson was "...gainin' an attraction to the white man's poon tang." Ostracized from society, Jack and Eleanor tried to live privately, but they were constantly hounded. Jack became increasingly abusive towards Eleanor, until she took her own life. Distraught, Jack went in for one last showdown in Cuba.

Regardless of what you think of the movie overall, it's important because it shows a part of our history that we may never be able to get over, and in fact are still addressing today. Director Martin Ritt espouses the same kind of social awareness that he discussed in "Hud", "Sounder", "Conrack" and "The Front". A masterpiece.


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