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ID
51
MEDIA ID
DVD-108
TYPE
DOCUMENTARY
DESCRIPTION
The Jack Johnson Story - (90min) (1971)
NOTES
Time may have a way of vitiating history, but "Jack Johnson" emerges amazingly alive and fascinating in the documentary biography of the black heavyweight boxing champion of more than 60 years ago, which had its local premiere at the Whitney Museum yesterday. "I like what I do before a crowd," says Brock Peters as the rich baritone off-screen "voice" of the champ. And through this meticulous composition of vintage footage, stills and many of Johnson's actual words, a viewer, even a nonsporting type, also should get to "like" what Johnson did. As the work of Jim Jacobs and William Cayton, who have already given us careful pugilistic histories in "The Legendary Champions" and "a.k.a. Cassius Clay," this history sticks to facts that do not force sympathy for its hero and that really need no footnotes. These are visual and aural facts that somehow limn a more detailed picture of the controversial fighter than the stage and screen versions of Howard Sacker's play "The Great White Hope." These comparisons are inevitable but not really necessary. What we have in this "Jack Johnson" is a portrait of a towering figure, who, right or wrong, obviously was before his time. In this case, simply a good deal more of the man is exposed in these vintage films of his fights and his life outside the ring than was revealed in the previous, forceful stage and screen dramatizations. Against a throbbing modern jazz score by Miles Davis, we are given a smiling, 6-foot 200-pound muscular, bald, Texas black man who happily marries three white women in succession against the shibboleths of his day, who chases and finally wrests the championships from Tommy Burns in Australia in 1908 and on, through triumphs and adversity, to his death in 1946. Controversy obviously was the name of Johnson's game through a variety of "white hopes" who sought to dethrone him until that gigantic Kansas farmer, Jess Willard, did it in Havana in 1915. A good many of these scenes turned up in "The Legendary Champions." But there is a profusion of rarely seen shots, too—such as his thrilling auto race with Barney Oldfield; his Chicago saloon; his life in World War I France; Spain (as an amateur matador); his flight from this country after his trial on morals charges; Russia, where he met Rasputin; his stay in Leaven-worth prison and as an aging but still happy attraction at Hubert's Flea Museum on 42d Street. This, of course, is a special case and a specialized film. But "Jack Johnson" does come through as the picture of a highly unusual, decidedly undefeated man full of life to the end who defiantly stated: "I'm black! They never let me forget it. I'm black all right. I'll never let them forget it!" The Program JACK JOHNSON; screenplay by Al Bodian; directed by William Cayton; produced by Jim Jacobs; director of photography, Larry Garinger; music by Miles Davis; edited by John Dandre; Jack Johnson's narration by Brock Peters; commentary by Kevin Kennedy; presented by The Big Fights, Inc. Bill Cayton- Director
BROADCAST
QLTY
***
DATE

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