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Loosely based on the William Faulkner novel, this movie follows the lives and passions of the Compsons: a once-proud Southern family now just barely scraping by both financially and ... See full summary »
A member of the House of Lords dies, leaving his estate to his son. Unfortunately, his son thinks he is Jesus Christ. The other, somewhat more respectable, members of their family plot to steal the estate from him. Murder and mayhem ensue.
Tracy, an aspiring designer from the slums of Chicago puts herself through fashion school in the hopes of becoming one of the world's top designers. Her ambition leads her to Rome spurring ... See full summary »
Two students from neighboring colleges in upstate New York are swept up in a tragic romantic interlude calling for a maturity of vision beyond their experience of capabilities. Pookie Adams... See full summary »
Alan J. Pakula
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
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 »
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 »
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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