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This reverential, well-crafted 1951 biopic starring the hulky Burt Lancaster as Native American Olympian Thorpe is hardly the definitive word on one of our greatest track stars, but it does remind us how unfair and demeaning it once was for athletes of color. Concentrating on Thorpe's track and football victories (he also excelled at boxing, swimming, and golf), director Michael Curtiz and screenwriters Douglas Morrow and Everett Freeman (working from Thorpe's autobiography) chart their hero's rise from reservation poverty to Carlisle College track star to 1912 Olympic decathlon/pentathlon winner. Thorpe was stripped of his medals when it was learned that he had taken a few bucks as a football player. Lancaster is even better at playing Thorpe in the depths of drunkenness and despair than in his jock heyday. Charles Bickford is Pop Warner, the legendary coach who encouraged Thorpe to go for the gold, and Phyllis Thaxter appears as the athlete's supportive wife. Thorpe, who served as technical adviser, died two years after this film was released. Thirty years later, the International Olympic Committee overturned the earlier ruling and returned Thorpe's medals to his family. "What does it mean now?" a bitter Lancaster was quoted as saying at the time.

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WA11775 Jim Thorpe All American VHS (1951/Burt Lancaster) $13.99