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... See full summary »
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 <email@example.com>
John Garfield is a fighter taken over "Body and Soul" in this 1947 Faustian drama about a man who becomes too heady with success and too greedy, eventually signing on with a crooked fight promoter. Garfield is supported here by Lilli Palmer, Anne Revere, Hazel Brooks, William Conrad, Canada Lee and Lloyd Gough.
American filmmakers love boxing movies, and why not? It's a one on one brutal action sport that has inherent in it good drama because of what is at stake for people who most likely came from nothing and used their fists on the street. "Body and Soul" is no different in this regard, but it's one of the best of its kind. It also boasts an unusual and exceptionally talented cast.
The film is loaded with conflict for Charlie Davis (Garfield) - his mother (Revere) doesn't want him to fight; he's in love with Peg (Palmer) and wants to marry her but is talked into delaying it when he signs on with a new and corrupt promoter, Roberts (Gough). This will be the first of Charlie's concessions and unfortunately not the last. He fights Ben (Lee), but isn't told that the man has a blood clot and he needs to coast through only a few rounds. Instead, he pulverizes Ben, causing further brain damage, and takes him on as a trainer out of guilt. Then he's seduced by a money-hungry babe named Alice (Brooks). And on and on, until Roberts bets against him and orders him to take a dive in the championship fight he's been waiting for. (With all the films done about taking dives, anyone who bets on a fight is nuts.) Something about this movie - maybe it's the theme song, which is one of my favorites - swept me away. It's one of Garfield' most colorful performances, and the beautiful, classy Palmer is a perfect juxtaposition not only to the streetwise Charlie but the trashy Alice.
The truly transcendent role and performance is essayed by Canada Lee, a wonderful actor who died too young and had too few opportunities in film. His performance as the volatile, ill Ben was Oscar-worthy. Like Ben Carter in "Crash Dive," the fact that Lee is black does not enter into the script at all, and he is treated as an equal. For all the rotten stereotyping done in films at that time, there were a few scripts that defied it. Lee was blacklisted and died in 1952(the same year that John Garfield died), at 45, almost literally of a broken heart. He left a legacy of five films and some wonderful stage work, including Orson Welles' all-black Macbeth. Cast members Garfield, Lee, Anne Revere, Lloyd Gough, Art Smith, Shimen Ruskin, scriptwriter Abraham Polonsky and producer Bob Roberts would all find themselves blacklisted, and director Rossen would be threatened but admit to being a Communist and name names.
Magnificently photographed in black and white by James Wong Howe and with top direction, "Body and Soul" is an example of how wonderful film can be.
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