Champion (1949)

Champion (1949)

This exceptional boxing drama is notable for its many firsts: Kirk Douglas (in the title role) earned the first of his three Best Actor Academy Award nominations Arthur Kennedy received the first of his five Supporting Actor nominations screenwriter Carl Foreman got his first Oscar nod and cinematographer Franz Planer earned the first of his five – none of these men ever took home the gold but editor Harry Gerstad did (the first of his two statuettes); Dimitri Tiomkin’s Score was also nominated. Mark Robson directed and Foreman’s screenplay was based on a short story by Ring Lardner.

Midge Kelly (Douglas) gets into the fight game as a replacement fighter because he and his brother Connie (Kennedy) have been drifting and need the money. Even though Midge takes a beating Tommy Haley (Paul Stewart) sees something in him but Connie talks him out of becoming a boxer. The two find work at diner run by Lew (Harry Shannon) who later forces Midge to marry his comely daughter Emma (Ruth Roman) when he catches them fooling around. Some time later after Midge has dumped Emma he reconnects with Tommy whom he convinces to work again as his manager-trainer. Midge trains hard and is successful making him feel powerful so he ignores Connie’s urging to quit this time and becomes full of himself. He thinks he can have women like moll Grace Diamond (Marilyn Maxwell) and defy the mob’s demand that he throw a fight; he learns otherwise. But Midge later earns his title fight and becomes a champion. He is further transformed by the brutal sport and alienates everyone around him. The film’s ending is a must-see classic.

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