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The Greatest (1977)

Muhammad Ali stars as himself in this dramatised version of his life story up to the late 1970s. It includes his Olympic triumphs as Cassius Clay, his conversion to Islam, his refusal of ... See full summary »

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(based on: "The Greatest: My Own Story" by), (based on: "The Greatest: My Own Story" by) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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...
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Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
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...
Payton Jory
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Mrs. Fairlie
Teddy Wilson ...
John the Gardener (as Theodore R. Wilson)
Annazette Chase ...
Mira Waters ...
Ruby Sanderson
Chip McAllister ...
Cassius Clay Aged 18 (as Phillip 'Chip' McAllister)
Drew Bundini Brown ...
Drew 'Bundini' Brown (as Drew 'Bundini' Brown)
...
Bill McDonald
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Cruikshank
...
Hollis
...
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Storyline

Muhammad Ali stars as himself in this dramatised version of his life story up to the late 1970s. It includes his Olympic triumphs as Cassius Clay, his conversion to Islam, his refusal of the Army draft and the legal battle after being stripped of his World Title. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The story you only think you knew. See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Sport

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

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|

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Release Date:

19 August 1977 (Ireland)  »

Also Known As:

El más grande  »

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(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Part of a cycle of ring fighter movies, mostly boxing, some wrestling, initiated by the box-office and critical success of the Academy Award Best Picture winning boxing movie Rocky (1976). The films include Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Tough Enough (1983), Title Shot (1979), Raging Bull (1980), The Champ (1979), Matilda (1978), The Main Event (1979), The Prize Fighter (1979), The Greatest (1977), Body and Soul (1981), Paradise Alley (1978), ...All the Marbles (1981) (aka "The California Dolls"), The One and Only (1978), Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980). See more »

Goofs

Ali is shown fighting Joe Bugner during the montage of bouts that took place between the first Frazier fight in 1971 and the first Norton fight in 1973.

However the footage is actually taken from the second fight with Bugner in 1975 instead of their first fight in 1973. Not only is this out of sequence for the montage but the second Bugner fight occurred after the Ali vs Foreman fight in 1974 which is the climax of the film. See more »

Connections

Edited into Afro Promo (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

I Always Knew I Had It In Me
Sung by George Benson
Music by Michael Masser
Lyrics by Gerry Goffin
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User Reviews

 
THE GREATEST (Tom Gries and, uncredited, Monte Hellman, 1977) **1/2
23 July 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

The original (and nominal) director here, Tom Gries, died of a heart attack while the film was still in production; somewhat perversely, Monte Hellman (who usually had to struggle to set-up his own personal projects) seemed like the go-to-guy in similar situations – since he would be assigned similar 'doctoring' duties on AVALANCHE EXPRESS (1979), whose own viewing preceded this one! While it was most probably green-lit in the wake of the boxing sleeper hit (and surprise Oscar triumph) ROCKY (1976), earlier in the decade another film on a black champ within this particular sporting field had emerged i.e. THE GREAT WHITE HOPE (1970) – in which James Earl Jones had been Oscar-nominated for his turn as Jack Johnson and who, here, turns up briefly as yet another controversial historical figure, Malcolm X (himself the subject of a 1992 film, where he would be interpreted by Oscar contender Denzel Washington).

Anyway, it was a rarity to have the protagonist of a biopic played by the man himself; legendary Muhammad Ali – formerly known as Cassius Clay – 'performs' adequately enough under the circumstances (though some disparagingly opined that he was unconvincing!), so much so that he would later star in the made-for-TV American Civil War epic FREEDOM ROAD (1979). For the record, his life-story would also be treated in a number of documentaries, such as a.k.a. CASSIUS CLAY (1970) and the Oscar-winning WHEN WE WERE KINGS (1996) – both of which I own but have yet to check out – as well as Michael Mann's more thorough feature ALI (2001; for which star Will Smith would also be up for a Best Actor Oscar). Incidentally, the name-change was from Clay to Ali occurred when he changed his faith from Christianity (rejecting it for being "the white man's religion 'mandating' that the black man suffer while on Earth and reap his rewards in the afterlife"!) to Muslim (the boxer's association with the revolutionary Malcolm X would be frowned upon by his promoters, while Ali's pacifist views would land him in trouble with the authorities when he refused to be drafted in the Vietnam War, whereupon he was stripped of his titles!).

Thankfully, the script (by sports authority Ring Lardner Jr. and an uncredited Bill Gunn, perhaps best-known for his radical take on the vampire theme with GANJA & HESS {1973}) does not whitewash its subjects, depicting Ali as misogynistic (liberally seducing white women and dominating those of his own color) and brash (openly aggravating his opponents in order to throw them off-balance) and Malcolm himself as delusional. The heavyweight bouts themselves are presented briefly via stock footage, with more time allotted to the 1974 "Rumble In The Jungle" with Ali making a spectacular comeback facing George Foreman (actually exclusively dealt with in the afore-mentioned WHEN WE WERE KINGS – by which time the protagonist would have become afflicted with Parkinson's Disease, though he did turn up unannounced at the awards ceremony!) and which ends THE GREATEST itself on a high note. Such powerful moments are intermittently felt throughout, but the end result does not really prove the compelling portrayal that was clearly intended!

In fact, among its deficiencies, one has to include the movie's soundtrack – composed of equal parts sappy songs by George Benson (notably "The Greatest Love Of All") and a pulsating score (during the ROCKY-type training sessions) that are very evocative of its era, that is to say, feel dated at this juncture! Nor is the film helped in any noticeable way by the star-studded supporting cast – highlighting Ernest Borgnine (as Ali's trainer), John Marley (his doctor), Robert Duvall (the afore-mentioned flustered promoter), Ben Johnson (as an early supporter), a thinned-down Paul Winfield (as his defence counsel) and Roger E. Mosley (as Sonny Liston, the heavyweight champ he first lost to and then triumphed over).


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