In 1973, Jim Morris captured the Mr. America bodybuilding championship by the largest winning point margin ever recorded. His victory made him the oldest person (at 37) and the second African American to capture that honor. But as he recalls in Ryan Vance’s documentary short, what should have been a career pinnacle turned into a horror story – the audience at the event loudly booed his win, while Muscular Development magazine (the leading publication for bodybuilding) derided his achievement and broke with its editorial tradition of honoring Mr. America winners by refusing to put him on the cover.
What a difference 41 years makes. Today, the 78-year-old Morris is celebrated as one of the most prominent and inspiring vegan athletes. While he is no longer a competitive bodybuilder – his last title victory was the Over 60 category in the 1996 Mr. Olympia Masters tournament – he is still active as a trainer and as a motivational force of positive energy. Overcoming ageism and racism, not to mention homophobia, Morris continues to embody the concept of the indefatigable spirit.
While this short documentary does a fine job in encapsulating Morris’ experiences, it is easy to rue that Vance did not expand this into a feature-length film. This is a great life story and it certainly deserves to be shared with as many people as possible.