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
The Great White Hope is a fine way to end my Black History Month series of reviews
Concluding reviewing African-Americans in film in chronological order for Black History Month, we're at the near end of 1970 when James Earl Jones reprises his Tony-winning role as boxer Jack Jefferson in film version of The Great White Hope which got him an Oscar nomination. Since this takes place in the early part of the 20th century, he's not very much liked by the majority white public of America at the time certainly whenever he's seen with his Caucasian female partner Eleanor Backman (Jane Alexander, also Academy nominated). His former girlfriend Clara (Marlene Warfield) certainly resents Eleanor for usurping her power over Jack who has no use for her. Good thing he has his manager Goldie (Lou Gilbert) as well as his trainer Tick (Joel Fluellen) on his side so they all go to Europe where they don't have to worry about jail time. I'll just stop there and just say that the staginess is quite evident in many scenes. Still, both Jones and Ms. Alexander are effective whenever they're together whether intimate or arguing. And Fluellen has his biggest role here and makes the most of it. In addition, it was such a treat, after playing husband-and-wife in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, to see Beah Richards-as Jack's mother-and Roy Glenn-as a pastor at her house-in the same scene again. And seeing Bill Walker-so memorable as Reverend Sykes in To Kill a Mockingbird-playing a deacon in an early scene was also pleasurable to me. One more thing, Hal Holbrook has a memorable turn as an attorney interviewing Ms. Alexander. So on that note, The Great White Hope is highly recommended. Oh, and while this is the official last entry for BHM, there are a few movies I wanted to review in the time alloted that I'm viewing in the next few days (or weeks, depending on my mood) so if you are reading this under my username, watch this space for those reviews...
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