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The Champ (1931) Poster

(I) (1931)

Trivia

Wallace Beery actually got one less vote than Fredric March in the 1931/1932 Academy Awards voting for best actor, but the rules at the time considered anyone with one or two votes less than the leader as being in a tie. So both got Academy Awards.
This film ranked second as best picture in the 1932 Film Daily poll of national critics, being beaten only by Grand Hotel (1932).
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The film did fine at its first preview until the last reel. As originally written, Champ loses his comeback boxing match, then dies as his son weeps. After going along with the sentimental story until that moment, audiences felt cheated by the downbeat ending. As a result, production chief Irving Thalberg ordered the final scene reshot so that Champ won the match. At the next preview, the audience cheered at the end.
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Although the AFI Catalogue specifies the world premiere was in Hollywood (at Grauman's Chinese Theater) on 13 November 1931, the New York Times review of 10 November 1931 says "last night [it] succeeded in stirring the emotions of an audience in the Astor..." Since the review concludes that the film is AT THE ASTOR, it seems likely that it was ready for public viewing immediately. The AFI Catalogue world premiere statement is probably wrong, and that it was just a Hollywood premiere.
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The film, along with Min and Bill (1930), transformed Wallace Beery from ageing character actor to a verified star.
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Frances Marion wrote the title role specifically for Wallace Beery.
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Wallace Beery claimed to have turned down a $500,000 offer from a syndicate of Indian studios to play Buddha in order to take this film.
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Wallace Beery flew his own plane from Los Angeles, California, cross-country to attend the premiere in New York City.
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"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on November 13, 1939 with Wallace Beery reprising his film role.
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The film went into production in August 1931 and finished shooting in October. It was ready for theatres by November.
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The racetrack scenes were shot on the MGM back lot, with a few establishing shots taken at Agua Caliente in Baja California, Mexico. The film also includes some location shots taken in Tijuana.
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This was Jackie Cooper's first film for MGM.
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Jackie Cooper was paid $1,500 a week while working on the film.
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Wallace Beery was none too thrilled to be working with Jackie Cooper, sharing most adult actors' distrust of child stars. Cooper would later accuse the star of trying to upstage him and treating him like "an unkempt dog," behaviour he ascribed to jealousy.
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King Vidor, feeling that Jackie Cooper "didn't seem to get into the spirit of the part," pretended to fire assistant director Alfred Golden because Cooper was fond of him. After Cooper burst into tears, the article continues, Vidor shot the scene he wanted, then rewarded him for being a good boy by re-hiring Golden. Cooper's autobiography makes no mention of this incident, but notes that as a child Cooper cared neither for Golden or Wallace Beery.
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After the film's debut, Wallace Beery declared Jackie Cooper was a "great kid" but that he would not work with the child actor again, a promise he broke within the year.
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The film has been described as an inverted women's film, because men in the film are not generally depicted at the top of the socio-economic ladder but are shown as a primary childcare provider.
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"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on June 29, 1942 with Wallace Beery reprising his film role.
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" The Champ " was the fifth most popular movie at the U.S. box office for 1932.
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Despite the melodramatic script, King Vidor eagerly took on the film since it emphasized the traditional family values and strong belief in hope-qualities he felt were essential to a good motion picture.
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