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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 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?


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 »


Dixon: Well, when a man beats us out like this, we, of course, look foolish, but more important, so does the law. People lose respect for law, and that we just cannot afford right now. You may not be aware of it yet, but a very large, very black migration is in progress. They're coming from the fields down South, filling up the slums. And I am talking about hundreds of thousands, maybe millions soon. Millions of ignorant Negroes rapidly massing together. Now, we cannot allow the image of this man to ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Screenplay by Howard Sackler Based on his play See more »


Referenced in Love Ranch (2010) See more »


Oh! You Beautiful Doll
Written by Nat Ayer and A. Seymour Brown
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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.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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