The Movie

Strength and Nobility, jack johnson, boxer, movie, film, serial, 1917, ricard de baños, heavyweight champion, boxer_as_an_actor, star_movie; johnson_jack; reel mystery thrillersJack Johnson developed many activities  in Spain. Maybe the most striking was his debut as a film actor. The former heavyweight champion had become friendly with Catalan film director Ricard de Baños, who wanted to turn his good friend into the rival of Maciste, one of the first strong ones of the history of the cinema, personified by the Italian actor Bartolomeo Pagano. The project title: Strength and Nobility.

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The story of Strength and Nobility was divided into four parts: The Will of a Prince, Among Beasts, The Film Developer, and Jack Johnson, Death Wish. The serial narrated the thrilling adventures of Jack, «a handsome man of gigantic stature and strong muscles so that his body resembles the legend of Atlas», as would say the press of the time.

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The plot was simple: In the exotic city of Osmalia, the legendary champion of boxing has to help Prince Federico to recover legitimately the throne and restore the monarchy. Of course, to get it soon had to face countless dangers and the most ruthless villains.

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The shooting of Strength and Nobility began in May 1917, when Barcelona were exhibiting several successful serials movies, as Ultus and the Grey Lady (George Pearson, 1916), Judex (Louis Feuillade, 1916) and Mysteries of the Grand Hotel (James W. Horne, 1915).

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The Arrival

jack, johnson, spain, boxingOn Thursday March 9, 1916, the boxer Jack Johnson and his «troupe» —composed by his wife Lucille; his nephew Gus Rhodes; and his manager, an attentive British who was answering to the name of Jack Morris— registered in the luxurious Hotel Palace in Madrid, the Spanish capital. From the same moment of his arrival, the boxer was located in one of the big lounges of the hotel and showed like a museum piece.

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After his first exhibitions in Madrid, Jack Johnson was moved to Barcelona, where he acted as a referee in a boxing match between Hoche and Allak in the Iris-Park.

With curiosity and admiration, Spanish people began approaching the hotel to see the famous fighter. Johnson knew he had become an international celebrity thanks to the press and newsreels. In places as diverse as Russia, Germany or England, had received as a king. And in Spain, it was not different. The ex-champion did not want to disappoint the curious and put on his best clothes with lots of accessories: rings, tie pins, scarves, hats, canes…