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The Great White Hope (1970)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Romance, Sport  |  16 October 1970 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 1,756 users  
Reviews: 27 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?


Redd Foxx, who knew former heavyweight champ Jack Johnson, whose career and struggle against racism inspired the original play, turned down a role in the film as he believed it was not a true picture of his old friend. 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 »


Jack Jefferson: I'm big, but I ain't dumb, hear?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Screenplay by Howard Sackler Based on his play See more »


Referenced in Gilmore Girls: Sadie, Sadie (2001) See more »


Du, du liegst mir im Herz
Arranged by Lionel Newman
See more »

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User Reviews

James Earl Jones in his first starring role
13 January 2005 | by (Washington, D.C.) – See all my reviews

I first saw the play at least 35 years ago when it debuted at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., with James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander in the lead roles. Recently, Arena revived the play, and I thought it was dated and a dud. But the film, which has just appeared on PBS, reminded me of the power, not so much of the play which has elements of caricature, but of the acting. Jones and Alexander were both outstanding in the movie, Jones as the black heavyweight champion (Jack Johnson in thin disguise)and Alexander as his white lover. The two of them deserved the stardom that came with these roles when the play moved from the Arena Stage to Broadway. It may not even be the best movie about boxing, but it's worth seeing because of Jones and Alexander. Moreover, the virulent racism directed at Jack Jefferson (Jones's character) and the role of the Federal government in prosecuting him under the Mann act are useful reminders of the way our country was at the beginning of the 20th Century. long ago.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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