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Londoners Arnold and Evelyn Boult had high hopes for the life of their son, Edward. His relatively short life ended up being one of privilege but irresponsibility. His life ended at age 23 ... See full summary »
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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 original Broadway production of "The Great White Hope" by Howard Sackler opened at the Alvin Theater in New York on October 3, 1968, ran for 546 performances and won the 1969 Tony Award for the Best Play. James Earl Jones won the 1969 Tony Award for Best Actor in Play and recreated his stage role in the movie version. Jane Alexander won the 1969 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play and recreated her stage role in the movie version. The play author also wrote the screenplay for the movie version. 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 »
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 ...
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Screenplay by Howard Sackler Based on his play See more »
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.
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