The Great White Hope (1970) Darth Vader Fights Hatred With His Fists.

The Great White Hope (1970) james earl jones movie poster

Hey! That black boxer with his shining bald head on the screen looks familiar? Without that big cuddly frame and his glasses he’s almost unrecognisable as he bounds up and down firing off punches as fast as his mouth. When the words come out you instantly recall that voice, that unmistakable voice, those deep tones of the dark side, that ultimate bad guy, Darth Vader. You’ll also gonna know those vocal sounds from the likes of Disney’s father of the pride, Mufasa, from The Lion King. And who could forget Eddie Murphy’s Dad, King Jaffe Joffer in Coming To America. He’s the guy thats so iconic that it can only be one guy, that super legend, Mr James Earl Jones.

The Great White Hope (1970) Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones) boxing win jack johnson tough

Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones) ain’t afraid of nobody. Speaking his mind and shooting off his mouth straight from the hip, always with a gigantic broad smile. Jefferson is a tough as nails, hard punching boxer, who will pound the living daylights out of anyone stupid enough to step in the ring with him. Lucky for him there are quite a few unexpecting souls dropped in behind the ropes for him to unleash his volley of well placed power punches on. All much to the annoyance of the white promoters, crowds and rival fighters. The decade is the 1910’s and sport and general life is filled with racist hatred and extreme prejudice.

Tagline – He could beat any white man in the world. He just couldn’t beat all of them!

The Great White Hope (1970) Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones) weigh in boxing fightThe Great White Hope (1970)Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones) Tick (Joel Fluellen) Goldie (Lou Gilbert)

Jack is surrounded by three main loyal friends, his trainer Tick (Joel Fluellen) and promoter Goldie (Lou Gilbert). And on his arm is Eleanor Backman (Jane Alexander), his sweet beloved. Sadly though, in these times, their love for each other is seen as controversial, for his forbidden love is a white woman.

The Great White Hope (1970) Eleanor Backman (Jane Alexander) james earl jones jack lovers

Now poor Jack has it coming at him from all sides, especially now he’s gone and won the heavyweight title belt from his latest fight against the last “great white hope” champion. Furiously the fight promoters try any dirty trick in the book to bring Jack down and some of that includes his love for Eleanor.

The Great White Hope (1970) Eleanor Backman (Jane Alexander) james earl jones jack jefferson lovers sweet

Frustratedly these two lovers don’t just get hatred from the white bigots but also the black community give them a hard time too. In different ways, they can deal with all this prejudice but unfortunately there’s something bubbling away that brings with it a whole lot of heat! That sadly is Jack Jefferson’s inner fight with his own soul under the extreme pressures. So not only does he have to fight the racist hatred but also the hatred within himself, and both have a powerful sting in their punch. What chance do they have?

A few observations

  • James Earl Jones gives a forceful and dynamic performance, which cuts right through to the very core. Joined with the outstanding, Jane Alexander, giving it her all, you can really see that these two actors poured all their heartfelt emotional souls into these parts.
  • Tagline – The most honored play in the history of Broadway…becomes an electrifying motion picture!
  • They both had a little practice with their parts which is probably why we get to see such powerful rawness from them.  Being that they both performed their lead roles together in a successful Broadway stage show play of the same name in 1968. The theatre show received rave reviews, winning a string of Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for best drama in 1969.
The Great White Hope (1970) jack johnson Joe Choynski boxing vintage fighters

Jack Johnson and Joe Choynski

  • The story is loosely based on the Galveston Giant Jack Johnson the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. Well worth reading his story if you are interested, it’s really fascinating. Especially the friendship with Joe Choynski.
  • The Great White Hope is based on the play and screenwritten by Howard Sackler and directed by Martin Ritt, who made the excellent recent film find for me, Edge Of The City.
  • Jame Earl Jones got to spar in the ring with boxing legend The Greatest Muhammad Ali. What a fine picture, cheers for the heads up MikesTakeOnTheMovies.

The Great White Hope (1970) james earl jones boxing ring sparring Muhammad Ali 1969

  • Just one last thing, this film has to use the most incredible number of extras I’ve seen in one place, thousands of them. Whoever had to make the outfits for them, their poor hands must be covered in giant calluses!

The Great White Hope (1970) james earl jones boxing match crowds thousands extras

It’s a deep, dark, emotionally charged dig into era of the time and it maybe centred around boxing but that’s not what it’s really all about. Definitely worth a look if you see it on your travels. Have you seen this one? Thanks for popping on by Wolf Den.


4 thoughts on “The Great White Hope (1970) Darth Vader Fights Hatred With His Fists.

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