Adapted by Howard Sackler from his own Broadway hit, this excellent period drama is a thinly veiled depiction of the life of the first black heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson.
By winning the title Johnson (James Earl Jones, who played the role on Broadway) incurs the wrath of the white world. His troubles begin in earnest when he takes up with Eleanor (Alexander), a white divorcee. He's convicted of breaking the Mann Act and gets sent to prison. After Jefferson escapes,
he and Alexander begin an itinerant exile that takes them to Canada, England (where he's refused a boxing license), France and Germany. Few are willing to take on the great champion but he is determined to fight again. THE GREAT WHITE HOPE persuasively recreates the climate of the time and
generally avoids the preachiness for which director Ritt is sometimes known. The love story between Alexander and Jones is touchingly portrayed. Sackler's screeplay is written in free verse, but you'd never know it. leave a comment