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Charley Davis wins an amateur boxing match and is taken on by promoter Quinn. Charley's mother doesn't want him to fight, but when Charley's father is accidentally killed, Charley sets up a fight for money. His career blooms as he wins fight after fight, but soon an unethical promoter named Roberts begins to show an interest in Charley, and Charley finds himself faced with increasingly difficult choices. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Body and Soul was the first of several free lance productions that John Garfield did after his contract with Warner Brothers was concluded. He certainly didn't take any artistic chances because the role of Charlie Davis, the Jewish middleweight boxing champion from the Lower East Side of New York was something Garfield could identify with. He'd played a fighter in his second film, They Made Me A Criminal to great acclaim. And he'd appeared in the original production of Golden Boy though not in the lead. He'd be doing that on stage at the time of his demise in 1952.
But while Body and Soul didn't blaze any artistic trails for Garfield, it did give him a great role that earned him a second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Garfield lost to Ronald Colman that year in A Double Life.
Garfield has the feel for the heart and soul of Davis because that was his background. Another reviewer suggested that the Davis character is based on the famous lightweight champion Benny Leonard who would have been a hero to a Jewish kid like Julius Garfinkle growing up first on the Lower East Side and then in the Bronx. Leonard also died around the time Body and Soul was being made and movie audiences would have known that and the film would have a special poignancy for them.
The story is told in flashback as Charlie Davis dozes off in the training room before a defense of his middleweight crown. He's in a depression about the death of someone named Ben.
Ben turns out to be Canada Lee former champion himself who was Garfield's trainer. We see how Garfield who at first listened to his mother Anne Revere not to fight, but then when father Art Smith dies, economics forces him into the ring. Garfield gets involved with two women, artist Lilli Palmer and nightclub singer Hazel Brooks.
He also gets involved with a manager who eventually turns on him in William Conrad and a sleazy promoter in Lloyd Gough. If you're a fan of boxing films I think you can figure out where this will all end up.
But the ride is a good one. Besides Garfield's nomination, Body and Soul got another Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay by Abraham Polonsky. And it won the Oscar that year for Best Film Editing. That's for the great work in that department during that final boxing match.
For fans of John Garfield, Body and Soul is a must. Besides all that there's that great Johnny Green-Edward Heyman song from the Thirties that got a revival because of this film.
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