Jim Thorpe--All-American (1951)

107 mins | Biography, Drama | 1 September 1951

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HISTORY

The working title for this film was The All-American . The onscreen credits contain the following acknowledgment: "Our grateful appreciation to Bacone College for its aid and cooperation in making this picture possible." Contemporary HR news items note that two weeks of filming took place at Bacone College, which is located in Muskogee, OK.
       As depicted in the film, Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox Indian, was born in Oklahoma on 28 May 1888. As a boy, Thorpe, whose Indian name, Wa-tho-huck, meant Bright Path, disliked school, and his father enrolled him in schools an increasing distance away from home to discourage him from running away. However, in 1904, Thorpe's educational experiences changed dramatically when he began attending the famed Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. The school was founded in 1879 by Lt. Richard Pratt, an Army officer who was interested in improving the educational opportunities of Indians. The institution, which was the first off-reservation school funded by the U.S. government, was a vocational school rather than a college, and the length of attendance varied upon the course of study. Pratt, determined to help the Indian students adapt to white culture, initiated an "outing" system in which students would spend their holidays working for white families or employers rather than going home. The school, which closed in 1918, was well-known for the athletic prowess of its students.
       The most famous Carlisle coach was Glenn S. "Pop" Warner (1871--1954), who guided Thorpe in college football and track-and-field. During Warner's college coaching career, which spanned over forty years, his record-making teams included those of Carlisle, the University of Pittsburgh, Stanford and Temple University. ...

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The working title for this film was The All-American . The onscreen credits contain the following acknowledgment: "Our grateful appreciation to Bacone College for its aid and cooperation in making this picture possible." Contemporary HR news items note that two weeks of filming took place at Bacone College, which is located in Muskogee, OK.
       As depicted in the film, Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox Indian, was born in Oklahoma on 28 May 1888. As a boy, Thorpe, whose Indian name, Wa-tho-huck, meant Bright Path, disliked school, and his father enrolled him in schools an increasing distance away from home to discourage him from running away. However, in 1904, Thorpe's educational experiences changed dramatically when he began attending the famed Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. The school was founded in 1879 by Lt. Richard Pratt, an Army officer who was interested in improving the educational opportunities of Indians. The institution, which was the first off-reservation school funded by the U.S. government, was a vocational school rather than a college, and the length of attendance varied upon the course of study. Pratt, determined to help the Indian students adapt to white culture, initiated an "outing" system in which students would spend their holidays working for white families or employers rather than going home. The school, which closed in 1918, was well-known for the athletic prowess of its students.
       The most famous Carlisle coach was Glenn S. "Pop" Warner (1871--1954), who guided Thorpe in college football and track-and-field. During Warner's college coaching career, which spanned over forty years, his record-making teams included those of Carlisle, the University of Pittsburgh, Stanford and Temple University. Warner was renowned for his innovative plays and ability to mold strong teams. Thorpe started under Warner's tutelage in track-and-field, then moved on to football and was twice named All-American. In 1912, Thorpe participated in the Olympic games in Stockholm, where he won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon. Thorpe's astonishing performance moved King Gustav of Sweden to declare him "the greatest athlete in the world."
       In 1913, the International Olympic Committee discovered that Thorpe had broken the rules governing amateur standing by receiving payment for two summers of play in a minor league baseball team. Thorpe maintained that he had not been aware of the rules, but the committee nonetheless stripped him of his medals and expunged his achievements from official record books. Following the loss of his amateur status, Thorpe enjoyed careers in both professional baseball and football. After his retirement from professional sports in 1929, Thorpe was employed in a variety of jobs, including occasional extra and bit player work in Hollywood films. He appeared in a wide variety of films, including King Kong (1933), She (1935), and finally Wagonmaster (1950). Thorpe's private life was more complicated than depicted in the film, which portrayed only one of his three wives. His first wife was a white student at Carlisle, and their son, James, Jr., died of infantile paralysis when he was three years old, but the couple also had three daughters. Thorpe had four sons with his second wife, and was living with his third wife at the time of his death of a heart attack on 28 Mar 1953.
       In 1982, the International Olympic Committee restored Thorpe's medals [reproductions of the medals were presented to his children in Jan 1983] and re-entered his achievements in the official record books. Modern sources indicate that while filming Jim Thorpe--All-American , Burt Lancaster was personally involved in trying to restore Thorpe's medals. In a biography of Thorpe, Lancaster noted that "there was a strong attempt on the part of Warner Bros. to try to get his medals back. They were hoping to be able to do that as the finish for the picture." In addition to his Olympic honors, Thorpe was elected to the college and professional football halls of fame, as well as the track-and-field hall of fame, and in 1950, was voted the greatest athlete of the first half-century in a poll of sports writers conducted by The Associated Press.
       According to a 1951 Var article on the thirty-year development history of the film, Thorpe's life story had been suggested a number of times by various individuals. The article notes that in the early 1930s, Thorpe and noted publicist Russell J. Birdwell collaborated on an unpublished biography entitled Red Sons of Carlisle , the film rights to which were immediately purchased by M-G-M. M-G-M shelved the story, but in 1943, when Thorpe's friends, sports writer Norman Sper and Var columnist Frank Scully, wrote a piece about Thorpe for Reader's Digest , interest in the athlete's life story was renewed. According to an article by Scully in Var , M-G-M took another look at Red Sons of Carlisle , only to discover that all the legal rights to details not covered in the book had been acquired by Sper. Scully also notes that he and Sper were offered $25,000 for the rights to their Reader's Digest piece by an RKO producer, and attributes the demise of the deal to an argument Scully and Sper had over the fee for rewriting the script.
       According to a biography of director Michael Curtiz, in May 1949, following M-G-M's failure to negotiate legal details with Thorpe's wife, who possessed her husband's power of attorney, the studio released its option on the film rights to Red Sons of Carlisle . The rights were then picked up by Monogram producer Lindsley Parsons, who planned to produce a film based on an original story that was written by sportswriter Vincent X. Flaherty. According to the Curtiz biography, after Warner Bros. successfully negotiated the film rights with Mrs. Thorpe, producer Everett Freeman considered Kirk Douglas for the lead. A Jul--Aug 1996 Films in Review article noted that Curtiz and Thorpe first met at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, in which Curtiz participated on the Hungarian fencing team.
       The Var review noted that stock footage of the 1912 and 1924 Olympic Games were used in the film. The film was released in Britain as Man of Bronze . According to an Oct 1988 LAHE news item, Richard Leary was to write a screenplay of Thorpe's life to be filmed by Englander Productions, but the picture was not made.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Jun 1951.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jun 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
18 Jun 51
p. 22.
Films in Review
Jul Aug 1996
pp. 4-19.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 50
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 50
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 50
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 50
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 51
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
27 Sep 1948.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
7 Oct 1988.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Jun 51
p. 885.
New York Times
12 Jun 1949.
---
New York Times
25 Aug 51
p. 7.
Variety
20 Jun 51
p. 6.
Variety
29 Aug 1951.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
BRAND NAME
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
2d unit and montage dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Addl dial
Scr story
From the biography by
In collaboration with
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Still man
Best boy
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Supv art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst propman
COSTUMES
Ward set
Ward set
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Boom boy
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hair
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Script supv
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Man of Bronze
The All-American
Release Date:
1 September 1951
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 Aug 1951
Production Date:
late Aug--late Nov 1950
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
21 August 1951
LP1135
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
107
Length(in feet):
9,634
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14872
SYNOPSIS

Jim Thorpe, a young boy born on the Sac and Fox Indian reservation in Oklahoma, rejects his father's repeated attempts to place him in school because he is unaccustomed to the confines of a classroom. No sooner does his father drop him off at a new school than Jim rushes home, running the entire twelve-mile distance and arriving before his father. Although running is Jim's passion, his father tries to instill the value of a good education in Jim so that he can find a better life off the reservation. In time, Jim fulfills the promise he made to his father and attends the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. There he captures the attention of Glenn S. "Pop" Warner, the Director of Athletics, who sees Jim run and realizes that he can be an asset to the school track team. Pop's assessment of Jim's skills proves true when he leads the Carlisle team to many victories. While Jim makes fast friends with students Ed Guyac and Little Boy, he also stirs the interest of Margaret Miller, a fellow student who takes pleasure in sewing Jim's college letter onto his sweater. Realizing that he must vie with the captain of the football team to win Margaret's affection, Jim decides to go out for football and show off his prowess. Pop attempts to dissuade Jim from playing football because he fears that Jim's precious running legs might be injured, but Jim insists on joining. Game after game, Jim finds himself relegated to the bench, until the day of the game against Harvard, when Pop sends him onto the field. With the game tied, ...

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Jim Thorpe, a young boy born on the Sac and Fox Indian reservation in Oklahoma, rejects his father's repeated attempts to place him in school because he is unaccustomed to the confines of a classroom. No sooner does his father drop him off at a new school than Jim rushes home, running the entire twelve-mile distance and arriving before his father. Although running is Jim's passion, his father tries to instill the value of a good education in Jim so that he can find a better life off the reservation. In time, Jim fulfills the promise he made to his father and attends the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. There he captures the attention of Glenn S. "Pop" Warner, the Director of Athletics, who sees Jim run and realizes that he can be an asset to the school track team. Pop's assessment of Jim's skills proves true when he leads the Carlisle team to many victories. While Jim makes fast friends with students Ed Guyac and Little Boy, he also stirs the interest of Margaret Miller, a fellow student who takes pleasure in sewing Jim's college letter onto his sweater. Realizing that he must vie with the captain of the football team to win Margaret's affection, Jim decides to go out for football and show off his prowess. Pop attempts to dissuade Jim from playing football because he fears that Jim's precious running legs might be injured, but Jim insists on joining. Game after game, Jim finds himself relegated to the bench, until the day of the game against Harvard, when Pop sends him onto the field. With the game tied, Jim manages to score a seemingly impossible touchdown, winning the game for Carlisle. From then on, Jim leads the team to one victory after another. As the football season comes to a close, Jim decides that his life ambition is to be a football coach, and that he wants to marry Margaret. However, Margaret does not return the following term because she is not an Indian, and is ashamed that she let Jim assume that she was. When Pop sees how despondent Jim is over losing Margaret, he gets her a job in the school infirmary, and the couple reunite, declaring that their love is more important than their different backgrounds. Jim continues his athletic success at Carlisle but is unable to get the coaching job he so desperately wants. To further prove his prowess, Jim enters the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm, where he wins two gold medals. Soon after returning to the United States and marrying Margaret, Jim is accused by the Olympic Committee of breaking the rules and accepting money for playing on a minor league baseball team during one summer. Although he was unaware of the rule, Jim is stripped of his gold medals and, because of the resultant bad publicity, his career as an amateur is ruined. Jim then turns professional and enjoys careers in both baseball and football. He is devoted to his young son, and the boy's unexpected death sends Jim into a deep depression. Unable to endure Jim's drinking and aimless wandering from team to team, Margaret finally leaves him. Years pass, and in 1932, Pop gives Jim a ticket to the Los Angeles Olympics. Attending the event reminds Jim of his earlier ambitions and gives his life new meaning. On his way home, Jim accidentally drives over a football, and when he goes to return it to the neighborhood boys, he suddenly finds himself doing what he loves most, coaching. Many years later, Jim is honored by the American press as the greatest athlete in the first half of the century.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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