Sports biopics tend to follow a fairly predictable route, and that's essentially the case with Jim Thorpe -- All American. In such cases, it's usually not the outline of the plot that engages; it's the manner in which the story is told, and it is here that Thorpe goes for its gold. The film is fortunate to have at its helm Michael Curtiz, a distinguished director who when at his best knew how to spin a story like no one else. Curtiz is in top form here, and his work, while not as showy as in some of his other films, is solid. He gives the film drive and power, fully aware that at times the story is a bit familiar but treating it as if it were being told for the first time. He's aided greatly by a screenplay that takes advantage of each dramatic opportunity presented it and plays it for all it's worth, and it also helps that the life upon which the film is based truly did have a great deal of drama inherent in it. Burt Lancaster, while not Native American, is otherwise perfectly cast as Thorpe; no other actor of his generation had the genuine athleticism that the part requires. Lancaster gets fine support from the rest of the cast, but it's a picture that rests upon his shoulders, and it's a good thing his were brawny enough to carry it off without a hitch.
by Craig Butler review