Jim Thorpe - All American
The famous American Indian goes to Carlisle, learns from coach Pop Warner, wins the Olympics, and plays professional baseball and football before falling into poverty.
An Indian boy runs home twelve miles from school, and his father persuades him that school is important.
Jim Thorpe (Burt Lancaster) attends Carlisle Indian School and rooms with Ed Guyac (Dick Wesson) and Little Boy Who Walk Like Bear (Jack Big Head). Jim runs and is noticed by Pop Warner (Charles Bickford), who urges him to study and play sports. Jim excels in track events. Margaret Miller (Phyllis Thaxter) sews a letter on his coat, and Jim tries to impress her; but Warner won’t let Jim play football. Jim tells Margaret that he is in love with her. Warner tells Jim to kick a field goal, but he runs for a touchdown. Jim tells Warner he wants to be a coach. Jim tells Margaret they have the same blood and gives her a bracelet.
Jim quits a summer job and plays baseball for money. Jim learns that Margaret is not an Indian and did not come back to Carlisle. In football Jim helps Carlisle win and is All American. Jim hears Ed read Little Boy’s love letter. Warner takes Jim to a nurse who is Margaret. Jim asks her to marry. In a tough game against Penn they tie, and Little Boy is injured. Warner tells Jim he did not get the coaching job.
Jim goes to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, where he wins the pentathlon and the decathlon. Carlisle welcomes him home, and he weds Margaret. Jim is accused of accepting money for playing baseball but does not think he did anything wrong. Warner defends him, but Jim loses his medals and a coaching job.
Jim plays baseball for the New York Giants and is fined for not bunting. Jim tells Margaret that he quit and will play football in a new league. Jim is devoted to his son and misses practice. The boy gets sick. Jim plays in Chicago and gets a telegram that his son died. Jim plays for different teams. Ed and Little Boy visit Margaret, who tells Ed that Jim has been drinking. Jim comes in and reads an article that he is breaking down. Jim slugs the sportswriter and is released. Margaret asks Jim to accept land, and they quarrel. Margaret leaves him.
Jim plays football for $10. In 1932 he is fired from a dance marathon in Los Angeles. Warner finds him and says Margaret married again. They quarrel, but Jim attends the Olympics with Warner. Jim stays after and recalls his life. Jim drives a truck and helps kids play football. In the final scene Warner presents Jim as the greatest athlete of the past fifty years.
This sports biography shows how a member of a persecuted minority can excel in athletics but not be given other opportunities, resulting in the huge disparity between living in poverty and being honored as the greatest athlete.