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Spirit of Youth (1938)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, Sport | 1 April 1938 (USA)
The story of the rise of boxer Joe Thomas, which paralleled the life of Joe Louis.


Harry L. Fraser (as Harry Fraser)


Arthur Hoerl (original screenplay)


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Complete credited cast:
Joe Louis ... Joe Thomas
Clarence Muse ... Frankie Walburn
Edna Mae Harris Edna Mae Harris ... Mary Bowdin
Mae Turner Mae Turner ... Flora Bailey
Cleo Desmond Cleo Desmond ... Nora Thomas
Mantan Moreland ... Creighton 'Crickie' Fitzgibbons
Jewel Smith Jewel Smith ... Duke Emerald
Tom Southern Tom Southern ... Dr. Bowdin
Jess Lee Brooks Jess Lee Brooks ... Jeff Thomas (as Jesse Lee Brooks)
Marguerite Whitten Marguerite Whitten ... Eleanor Thomas (as Margaret Whitten)
Clarence Brooks Clarence Brooks ... Speedy
The Plantation Chior The Plantation Chior ... Church Choir
The Creole Chorus The Creole Chorus ... The Creole Chorus
The Big Apple Dancers The Big Apple Dancers ... Dancers


The story of the rise of boxer Joe Thomas, which paralleled the life of Joe Louis.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama | Sport


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1 April 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La vida de Joe Louis See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Globe Pictures Corp. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA High Fidelity Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film's earliest documented telecast in the New York City area occurred Wednesday 15 October 1947 on the DuMont Television Network's WABD (Channel 5). In Detroit it first aired Saturday 7 May 1949 on WXYZ (Channel 2), in Chicago Tuesday 21 June 1949 on WENR (Channel 7), and in Los Angeles Sunday 5 February 1950 on KNBH (Channel 4). See more »


Featured in Movies of Color: Black Southern Cinema (2002) See more »


Little Things You Do
Written by Clarence Muse and Elliot Carpenter
Sung by Clarence Muse
See more »

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User Reviews

A Joe Louis Production
3 May 2015 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

With the minimal dialog that Joe Louis is given in a production starring himself you'd hardly believe that he's in Bartlett's Quotations twice. But the man who said 'we're on God's side' and 'he can run but he can't hide' has little to say in Spirit Of Youth. That's because his managers John Roxborough and Julian Black knew that as an actor Joe Louis was a great heavyweight champion.

This film was part of a money making scheme that Roxborough and Black set up for Louis and note in the credits they cut themselves in for a piece of the action as 'technical advisers'. When Spirit Of Youth came out Louis had been heavyweight champion for a year and he was a hot property that his handlers looked to exploit and the black cinema of the time was one way to do it.

Louis plays Joe Thomas, a black sharecropper kid from Alabama who goes north to Detroit as thousands did in those days to get a job and make some real money. He finds he has talent in his fists and works hard to become heavyweight champion. In other words, someone like Joe Louis.

Short lived poverty row studio Grand National picked up the distribution of this film giving it an access to mainstream markets that most black productions didn't have. Spirit Of Youth also had in the cast Clarence Muse and Mantan Moreland who did appear in lots of mainstream films and were familiar to white audiences.

Muse is a character modeled on John Roxborough and Moreland plays his corner man much as Jack Blackburn was in real life. Blackburn however was a former boxer himself so Louis would never have to come to his rescue as he does with Moreland. In scenes with both Muse and Moreland Joe's deficiencies as a thespian are painfully apparent.

As for the plot he's a clean living kid with talents as pugilist who gets led astray by bad girl Mae Turner, but is pulled back on the straight and narrow by Edna Mae Harris.

Joe Louis was a great heavyweight and a great man from the last century, pity he did not a get film to go with it. After his career was over there was a Joe Louis Story film done with Coley Wallace in the lead. In production values not much better than this, but at least an actor was in the lead.

Still it made the money it was supposed to and that was its object. No one here thought they were creating great cinematic art.

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