Jim Thorpe—All American

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JIM THORPE—ALL AMERICAN—–being phenomenal at track & field, football and baseball wasn’t enough to slacken the drive of Jim Thorpe, a Native American (Sac & Fox tribes) athlete from Oklahoma. Going to the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe took not only the Pentathlon, but snagged the Decathlon to keep it company.

The route to all these physical victories wasn’t completely a yellow brick one, as marital woes and bottle-battle dealt some low blows along the path to legend. Intense, vital and superbly conditioned, Burt Lancaster is just great in the lead, and Charles Bickford is solid as ever, playing Thorpe’s mentor, the famous ‘Pop’ Warner.

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From 1951, running 107 minutes, with Phyllis Thaxter, Steve Cochran, Dick Wesson, Jack Big Head, Nestor Paiva and Billy Gray.  Direction is clean and swift, thanks to action expert Michael Curtiz; the staging of the runs and events done to a tee, backed by an exciting Max Steiner score, accent on tom-toms. The story is presented fairly honestly, though the script is structured in a pretty standard sports-bio way. Familiarity with plot points doesn’t mean much, next to Burt’s poise and presence, and the vivid detailing of the proud feats of Jim Thorpe.  Box-office did $6,400,000, coming in 32nd place for the year.

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