Though prizefighting films provoked contention in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, they were legal and exhibited in places where the sport itself was prohibited. The insertion of Jack Johnson's black body into the previously white-dominated context of prizefighting films increased significantly the controversy these texts elicited. Discourses surrounding fight films cast Johnson as an exceptionally excessive signifier who so amplified the nonfiction film image's affectivity that films featuring him necessitated containment. While federal legislation eventually suppressed the circulation of prizefighting films, representations of Johnson's fights in different media forms were produced and distributed without problem. Combining the discourses calling for the containment of films that displayed Johnson's 1910 victory against "white hope" Jim Jeffries with an examination of unproblematic representations of the same fight, this essay considers the relationship among prizefighting films' presumed affectivity, the content they displayed, and their form during this moment in American sport history.


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pp. 397-413
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