Jim Thorpe: All American
Burt Lancaster stars as Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe. Enrolled at Carlisle School for Indians, Jim struggles with schoolwork and the confinement of classrooms until he catches the eye of Coach Glenn “Pop” Warner (Charles Bickford). Introduced for the first time to sports like track, football and baseball, Jim makes a name for himself and leads the school to repeated victories in every sport he participates in.
But after failing to earn a coaching job following his collegiate experience, Jim decides to compete in both the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Sweden Summer Games. Again and again he finds himself atop the gold medal podium. However, shortly after Jim’s marriage to his college sweetheart (Phyllis Thaxter), Pop receives a telegram from the Olympic committee stripping the young athlete of his medals on a technicality.
Devastated by the Olympic reversal and the subsequent fallout, Jim seeks redemption with a professional career on both the baseball diamond and football field. But Jim’s athletic accolades don’t ensure success in his personal life. The pressure of maintaining his physical prowess and popularity weighs on his marriage and friendships.
With few content concerns other than repeated smoking and drinking depictions, this 1951 black and white drama highlights both the highs and lows of Thorpe’s sporting career and his response to the disappointments. With plenty of historical information about the evolving rules of play, this story also exposes the uncertainty of competition—a topic that may warrant discussion with aspiring young athletes of today.