The Big Fight

THE GREAT WHITE HOPE alternates wildly between the source play — big scenes with action artificially compressed to fit, which is the whole art of the theatrical drama — and vast cinematic spectacle — Martin Ritt and his expert team seem determined to spend as much money as possible. It rarely quite finds a happy middle of actual filmic drama. But there are moments:

It’s held together by James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander. Strong support too, but Jones is incredible.

Ritt himself advised against adapting plays for the screen: the playwright goes to the trouble of compressing all the action into a few rooms as possible, the filmmaker blasts the walls away and everything fades when the fresh air hits it, or else you get something like this where the “true story” claim, only halfheartedly made at the start (in a gag borrowed from BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: “Most of what follows is true”) gets undercut by all the furious contrivance devoted to lining up the balls for the Big Scenes, and then you get a huge set-piece in which hardly anything occurs. A bumpy ride. But worth taking.

THE GREAT WHITE HOPE stars Thulsa Doom; Bookkeeper; Rabbi Jacobs; Boston Blackie; Juror 12; Laureen Hobbs; Pruneface; Deep Throat; Mama Caleba; Booker T. Washington; Walter Winchell; Kemosabe; Rabbi Jacob; Superman; and Hong Kong Phooey.

2 Responses to “The Big Fight”

  1. My feelings about Martin Ritt are cooler than yours, but you might try CASEY’S SHADOW at some point, which I enjoyed.

  2. One of Ritt’s own favourites! Friends considered it a delicious idea for him to make a horseracing movie with Matthau since Ritt was an amazing handicapper and Matthau was known as the world’s worst.

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