Film tells story of Muhammad Ali’s draft fight

He is now so much a part of the nation’s social fabric that it’s hard to comprehend a time when Muhammad Ali was more reviled than revered.

Barely past the opening credits of a new documentary about Ali, though, we get a glimpse of how many Americans felt about him during a tumultuous time in the country’s history.

“I find nothing amusing or interesting or tolerable about this man,” television host David Susskind said, nearly spitting his words out in a 1968 broadcast as Ali looked on. “He’s a disgrace to his country, his race, and what he laughably describes as his profession.”

The scene in “The Trials of Muhammad Ali” — now playing in selected theaters — is then juxtaposed with one of President George W. Bush giving Ali the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. From draft-dodging pariah to hero, Ali’s long and sometimes painful journey was finally complete.

For those who didn’t live in the time and are only faintly aware of the tale, it is a remarkable one. For those who grew up in the era and know well Ali’s impact on a country just beginning to come to terms with race relations, it’s a refresher course, complete with clips of Ali at his bombastic — and to some, scary — best.

“I don’t have to be what you want me to be,” Ali is shown telling reporters the morning after his first fight with Sonny Liston in 1964, when he announced to the world he was a follower of the Nation of Islam.

Boxing fans were already wary of his involvement with the Black Muslim movement, but he became a pariah to even more when he refused induction to the Army at the height of the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector, famously saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong.”

Banned from boxing and facing five years in prison, he spent three prime fighting years on the sideline while the courts debated what to do with him. Once the heavyweight champion of the world, he became a speaker on college campuses to make a living and keep his cause before the public.

“You’re talking about a man being hit with the war situation and taking a stand along with his involvement with the Nation of Islam. It was new turf,” said Khalilah Camacho-Ali, his wife at the time, who is interviewed in the film. “He was comfortable making his decisions, but the thing that was hard to bear was whether he would fight again. It didn’t look like a hopeful battle.”

Ali would eventually win the battle, and go on to not only regain the heavyweight title but become the most famous athlete of his time. The U.S. Supreme Court finally took up his case and reversed his conviction on a technicality in 1971 in a decision that surprised some considering the tenor of the times.

The decision itself is also the subject of a drama that airs Saturday night on HBO. “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” uses actors including Christopher Plummer, Ed Begley, Jr. and Peter Gerety to play Supreme Court justices, but Ali himself is taken from the clips of the era at his oratorical best.

“Why tell his story when he tells it himself?” said Shawn Slovo, the movie’s writer.

But tell a story the HBO movie does, though some liberties are taken for entertainment’s sake. Among them are the justices being shown at one point gathering in the basement of the Supreme Court building to watch sex movies for a case before them on pornography, and a clerk smoking marijuana in a court bathroom.

It’s surprisingly engrossing, though, for a movie that revolves almost entirely around the legal process inside the court building. At the center of it is a clerk for Justice John Harlan II, who convinces him to switch his vote so that Ali’s conviction would be overturned on a technicality and he would not have to go to prison.

The movie and the documentary aren’t related except that they both feature Ali. They do, however, share funny clips from when Ali — complete with big Afro and beard — is shown singing in the 1969 Broadway musical “Buck White.” A man had to make a living, but Ali’s days as an actor were numbered when the play closed after seven performances.

Camacho-Ali, who was married to Ali from 1967-77, said she never gave up hope during her husband’s dark period that he would be allowed to fight again, though Ali himself had his doubts.

“My frame of mind was more positive than his was and it helped keep him afloat,” she said. “The best thing for Ali at the time was to keep him focused on his family life. That’s all we had to work with.”

Camacho-Ali hasn’t seen her former husband — now married to his fourth wife, Lonnie — since they both attended Joe Frazier’s funeral in 2011. But she still feels protective of Ali, who she had four children with, and believes the documentary is a way of educating people to the times they lived in and what they went through.

“I’m tired of people giving the wrong information,” she said. “You’re talking about one of the most famous people in recent history. The facts should be correct.”

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like