Selected Samples from
"The Boxing Filmography"

- by Frederick V. Romano

Fat City (1972 ) P.57

In Fat City, Huston depicts the inglorious human condition with all of its decaying hope, fatalistic trappings and numbing realities. The center of the film contrasts dual protagonists. Tully (Keach) is an emotional shell whose near flat-line boxing career is a metaphor for his liquor -driven and degenerating personal life. Munger (Bridges), new to the fight game, possesses youthful vigor and wide-eyed hope and is the reincarnation of Tully's past. Munger's dreams hold palpable expectations of fulfillment, and although Tully's do not, the former's desire acts as a catalyst for the latter to attempt revival of his fading goals. In their parallel pursuit of career success and human intimacy they embody the struggle for survival of the downtrodden and alcoholic. They mirror the search for life's meaning by those confined within the dim bars, dank gyms and soup kitchens of Stockton. By the film's end, Munger's life begins to bear some of the markings of Tully's, and this foreboding of the demise of the film's most promising character drives home Huston's sobering message.

Copyright 2004, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.


The Hurricane (1999) P. 93-94

But as often as the film will irk the knowledgeable boxing fan and offend the amateur historian for its fast and loose wielding of the facts, it will move and inspire the viewer with its elements of hope, courage and humanity. Here, credit is due to director Jewison and screenwriters Armyan Bernstein and Dan Gordon III, who embraced sentimentality at all costs, ultimately delivering the desired human element to the picture. The Huricane is, at its heart, a love story between Carter and Martin. It is a risky foundation to predicate the film on, but the filmmaker's vision is successfully realized in large part due to the gifted interpretation of Carter by Denzel Washington. Emanuel Levy of Variety observed, "Washington elevates the earnest, occasionally simplistic narrative to the level of genuinely touching moral exposé.

In one of the most satisfying roles of his career, Washington skillfully interweaves elements of the physical, emotional, and spiritual. He expertly uses his eyes and alters his voice to reveal Carter's intelligence and his complex nature, including a strong affinity with the philosophical.....

Copyright 2004, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.


The Harder They Fall (1956) p.83

The Harder They Fall is a deft and unsettling examination of the underbelly of boxing. If the sport of boxing was a stone resting on damp soil, then the film overturns the stone to reveal all that squirms beneath. A fighter who bungles a double-cross is knifed in his shower; piercing chicken wire is inserted into a fighter's mouthpiece to shred the inside of his lips; sly managers financially rape their fighters, who are at best treated as horses; and morally reprehensible promoters exploit human fatality to sell tickets. So critical of the fight game was the film that Schulberg, who possessed a deep affection for the sport, accused Robson of directing the film "with hate." As a result , Schulberg disassociated himself from Robson, who in turn remained unforgiving of Schulberg for his reaction.

Columbia had desired to shoot the fight scenes on location at a know fight venue. However, in reaction to the film's scathing indictment of the sport, boxing arenas across the nation, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles, uniformly bristled at the studio's request to utilize their facilities. The film's message might have jeopardized gate receipts, and the owners were unwilling to put their own necks in a financial noose.

The studio was forced to settle on building its own arena, which it did through the conversion of two sound stages. In the final match, over 500 extras were packed into the artificial venue to simulate the fight crowd. To capture the ring action from every conceivable vantage point, director Mark Robson pushed a hand truck around the ring, while cameraman Burnett Guffey sat in the truck filming with his portable Aeroflex camera. Shooting lasted for an entire week.

Copyright 2004, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.


The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933) P.152-153

While Carnera had bested Baer in regard to the performance fees anted by MGM, it was "The Fighting Playboy" who triumphed over Carnera on every other front. The oafish Carnera, the product of the remote village of Sesquels, Italy, was misplaced in Hollywood's opulence and ill at ease with its glamorous women. Conversely, Baer thrived amongst its beauties and fed off both their attention and that of the camera. To magnify the pair's already disparate experiences, the mischievous Baer engaged complicit MGM studio hands to assist in making Carnera the target of numerous pranks.

Carnera was only the bull's- eye of Baer's broad target of humor. On another occasion, Baer had co-star Myrna Loy's chair electrically wired, shocking her during the filming of a fight scene in front of the crew and a large cast of extras. Maxie's brand of humor was infectious. Former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey exhibited Baer's spirit by giving Loy an exploding cigarette which was lit by co-accomplice director W.S. Van Dyke. Loy eventually exacted revenge with the assistance of a toy mouse, which drove the rodent-phobic Baer into the protective arms of Carnera.

Copyright 2004, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.


Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) P.185

Newman's strong portrayal of Graziano effectively conveys the diverse emotional range of the film's subject. Newman's Graziano has a short fuse. The actor expertly depicts Rocky's discontent through his smug and wise attitude, a thin veneer that too often fails to cloak his anger, frustration, and violence. This expression of anti-social behavior is expertly balanced against Newman's believable portrayal of Graziano as a decent, and at times even tender individual, related through the fighter's relationships with his mother and wife.

To indoctrinate Newman into Graziano's world prior to filming, the pair became inseparable, visiting Graziano's old haunts such as Stillman's Gym and Tenth Street pool halls. They played cards, went out drinking and caroused together. While bonding, Newman observed Graziano's physical habits. Hands perpetually stuffed in his pockets, shoulders sloped forward and face tilted downward, Newman, in effect, became Graziano. Commenting on the effects of his tutelage, Graziano later stated, "He plays me so good, I thinks he's my brudda."

Copyright 2004, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.