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The Great White Hope

The Great White Hope (1970)


No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 3
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 2



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Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 557

My Rating

Movie Info

Although the characters' names were changed, The Great White Hope was a thinly veiled account of the trials and tribulations of boxer Jack Johnson, based on the play by Howard Sackler and directed by Martin Ritt. James Earl Jones stars as boxing great Jack Jefferson, who defeats Frank Bardy Larry Pennell in a Reno, Nevada bout to become the world's first black heavyweight champion. After crossing a state line with his white girlfriend Eleanor (Jane Alexander in her feature debut), however, Jack


Drama, Classics

Howard Sackler

Jan 11, 2005

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All Critics (6) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (2) | Rotten (4)

Jones' re-creation of his stage role is an eye-riveting experience. The towering rages and unrestrained joys of which his character was capable are portrayed larger than life.

January 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of those liberal, well-meaning, fervently uncontroversial works that pretend to tackle contemporary problems by finding analogies at a safe remove in history.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Provocative but never challenging.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie is too theatrical and every idea is spelled out for the audience, but the acting of James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander (both Oscar-nominated) is good.

October 1, 2009 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

The love story between Alexander and Jones is touchingly portrayed.

January 14, 2008 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Audience Reviews for The Great White Hope

The actual history is quite distorted but both James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander give great performances.
January 17, 2012
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

a fictionalized account of the fascinating life of jack johnson, the first black world heavyweight champ, 1908-1915, played powerfully by james earl jones. for the incredible true story of perhaps the greatest heavyweight champ of all time, see ken burns' terrific pbs documentary unforgivable blackness: the rise and fall of jack johnson ~5 stars if i could find it in flixster's database!
September 19, 2009
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

Howard Sackler's screenplay holds pretty closely to his stage play script, which I read shortly before watching this. The interracial relationship between Jack Jefferson (Jones), who represented real-life heavyweight champ Jack Johnson, and Eleanor (Alexander) is the most interesting feature of the story. Sure the period details provide a unique setting. The sports lingo of the early part of the twentieth century along with the racial slurs show a world that has rarely been presented on the screen. As Jack dodges the charges brought against him under the Mann Act by moving around internationally, the different cultures of the different countries are not so clearly represented, although the fact that the world was racist and not just America comes across well. The final boxing match scene in the play is all from the point of view of spectators outside the stadium. With the cinematic representation, we do get to see the two men slug it out. Though the makeup for this final fight scene is not very natural, James Earl Jones as Jack gives a performance throughout that shows both Jack's defiant energy and his defeated exhaustion.
May 12, 2014

Super Reviewer

Obama recently had the opportunity to pardon Jack Johnson for his "crimes". Here is the biopic of Johnson as realized by James Earl Jones. Jones brings out that larger than life personality of Johnson that upset white America to such a large degree. His story, like Ali's, was a challenge to society but without acceptance as Ali was to receive.
October 2, 2013
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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