“JIM THORPE, ALL-AMERICAN” MOVIE POSTER, 1952
Jim Thorpe sold the rights to his life story "Red Son of Carlisle," to MGM in 1929 for $1,500. In the years that followed, Thorpe repeatedly tried and failed to get back the rights. After World War II, Warner Brothers acquired the rights for $35,000, but there was little interest in making a movie, perhaps because Thorpe was no longer a household name.
Things changed in 1950. A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters named Thorpe "Greatest Football Player of the Half-Century." Soon after, he was selected as "Greatest Male Athlete of the Half-Century." Thorpe's renewed fame was quickly cashed in by Hollywood. With Burt Lancaster in the leading role, Jim Thorpe, All-American was released in August 1951.
Although Thorpe no longer owned the rights to his life, MGM hired him as an advisor. To judge by the numerous errors of fact in the movie, he wasn't consulted much. As Lancaster himself said, "The job was a manufactured one. They really didn't know what to do with him." However, Thorpe was pleased with the film, which debuted in Carlisle and Oklahoma City. Well-reviewed and a financial success, it opened up new opportunities for him as a lecturer.