The Johnson–Jeffries Fight
|The Johnson–Jeffries Fight|
|Produced by||John Stuart Blackton |
|Starring||Jack Johnson |
James J. Jeffries
|Distributed by||J. & J. Co.|
The footage depicts the heavyweight championship that took place in Reno, NV on July 4, 1910, when reigning champion Jack Johnson, a black American, knocked out former champion James J. Jeffries, a white American, in the fifteenth round of a very one-sided fight. The fight was already a media sensation weeks before it happened and was dubbed "The Fight of the Century". This sparked motivation to film the event as it was thought to be a guaranteed money-maker. The fight's promoter, George "Tex" Rickard, (who also refereed the bout) sold exclusive film rights. The film was recorded by nine cameramen and is two hours long. Novelist Jack London was also present in the crowd, reporting the event.
Since Johnson was African-American and Jeffries was white the competition took on major racial overtones. The press dubbed Jeffries "The Great White Hope." Sports writers and white America were generally astounded when Johnson beat Jeffries soundly. This caused race riots  in many places across the USA and provided the film with more public attention in the United States than any other film to date and for the next five years, until the release of The Birth of a Nation (1915). On July 7, 1910, only three days after the fight, various states and cities in the USA declared they would not allow the screening of the footage. The picture was banned virtually everywhere in the South, as well as in South Africa.
Two weeks after the match, former President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid boxer and fan, wrote an article for The Outlook in which he supported banning not just moving pictures of boxing matches, but a complete ban on all prize fights in America. He cited the "crookedness" and gambling that surrounded such contests and that moving pictures have "introduced a new method of money getting and of demoralization." The controversy surrounding the film directly motivated Congress to ban distribution of all prizefight films across state lines in 1912; the ban lasted for nearly three decades. It was finally lifted in 1940.
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