ⓘ The Greatest (1977 film)

The Greatest (1977 film)

ⓘ The Greatest (1977 film)

The Greatest is a 1977 film about the life of boxer Muhammad Ali, in which Ali plays himself. It was directed by Tom Gries. The film follows Alis life from the 1960 Summer Olympics to his regaining the heavyweight crown from George Foreman in their famous "Rumble in the Jungle" fight in 1974. The footage of the boxing matches themselves are largely the actual footage from the time involved.

The film is based on the book The Greatest: My Own Story written by Muhammad Ali and Richard Durham and edited by Toni Morrison.

The song "The Greatest Love of All" was written for this film by Michael Masser music and Linda Creed, lyrics and sung by George Benson; it was later covered by Whitney Houston.


1. Cast

  • Chip McAllister as young Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali
  • Paul Winfield as Draft Lawyer
  • Roger E. Mosley as Sonny Liston
  • Nai Bonet as Suzie Gomez
  • Skip Homeier as the Major
  • Mira Waters as Ruby Sanderson
  • David Clennon as the Captain
  • Stack Pierce as Johnson
  • Paul Mantee as Carrara
  • Ernest Borgnine as Angelo Dundee
  • John Marley as Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
  • Arthur Adams as Cassius Clay Sr
  • Lloyd Haynes as Herbert Muhammad
  • James Earl Jones as Malcolm X
  • Richard Venture as Colonel Cedrich
  • Dina Merrill as Velvet Green
  • David Huddleston as Cruikshank
  • Annazette Chase as Belinda Ali
  • Ben Johnson as Hollis
  • Robert Duvall as Bill McDonald
  • Muhammad Ali as Himself
  • Malachi Throne as Payton Jory
  • Drew Bundini Brown as Himself

Rahman Ali, Howard Bingham, Harold Conrad, Don Dunphy, Lloyd Wells, Pat Patterson, and Gene Kilroy appear as themselves.

There are many uncredited roles in the film including some major characters, such as Ruby Sanderson and his girlfriend, Belinda Board, who became his wife, and Herbert Mohammed, son of Elijah Muhammad, who was Alis manager at one point.

Lonette McKee was originally going to portray the role played by Annazette Chase.


2. Reception

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "a charming curio of a sort Hollywood doesnt seem to make much anymore." Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called the film "potent pop biography, lively and entertaining, in which the irrepressible worlds heavyweight boxing champion projects exactly the image he wants us to have." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and wrote, "As a diverting entertainment, The Greatest is more than satisfactory." Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote that Ali brought the film "an authority and a presence that lift John Marshalls production above some of the limitations inherent in any film bio." David Badder of The Monthly Film Bulletin stated, The Greatest delivers exactly what one would expect: a hagiographical account of Alis best-known exploits, giving full rein to the inimitable, volatile personality but in the process applying liberal coats of whitewash."

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