|Page 1 of 5:||    |
|Index||42 reviews in total|
I looked at this as simply a good story, a solid drama that happened to
have the sport of boxing figure into it. "Boxing movies." if people
insist on labeling this under that category, were particularly popular
around the time of this film. Many of them had similar stories about a
good guy being told to take a dive or else. Yes, that was in here, too,
but it wasn't anywhere near the central part of the story. This film
was more of an earlier "Raging Bull"-type tale in that it concentrated
on the friends, family, freeloaders, criminals and women surrounding
the main male character.
This was more of a story about a decent man who gets carried away with success and with the power and money that goes with it. As good as the lead actor, John Garfield, was in here - and he was good - I was more intrigued with the supporting characters.
Lilly Palmer looked and sounded the part of a refined sweet, pretty French girl (whatever that means) and was a good contrast to the uneducated and quick tempered brute (Garfield). As in so many stories, she wasn't fully appreciated by her man until the end. Anne Revere, as Garfield's mom (she seemed to always play the lead character's mother in 1940s films) was fascinating as she always was and kudos to Joseph Peveny as "Shorty" and Lloyd Gough a "Roberts." Both added a lot to the film. Wlliam Conrad and Hazel Brooks added some great film noir-- type dialog, berating each other once in a while.
These actors, and the photography of James Wong Howe, make this a cut above most if not all the so-called "boxing films."
If Jake LaMotta, the real life raging bull, ever went to the movies, he
have seen BODY AND SOUL a hundred times. It practically predicts the
of his career and the world of sports cinema, specifically boxing films.
Robert Rossen's 1947 black and white boiler is clearly an influence on
and RAGING BULL, along with countless other rags-to-riches sports stories
with a hint of corruption. John Garfield, an actor I feel serves an
audience more with his mere screen presence than his acting skills, is
stunning as "Charley Davis", the kid from New York who wants a shot at the
Notice Garfield's prudent girlfriend. Remind you of Adrian? (ROCKY) How about the mob boss who wants 50 percent of Garfield's winnings? Remind you of Nicholas Colasanto from RAGING BULL? Of course. BODY AND SOUL is the altar of origin from which these films worshiped. Garfield dabbled in boxing off-screen until his untimely death in 1952 and appears like LaMotta, or De Niro, in many scenes. His temper can fly quickly and without warning. CHAMPION with Kirk Douglas and SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME with Paul Newman have taken some licks from this sensational film that roared like most of the best films of the 1940's.
Boxing is the ultimate sport to depict in film because such interesting character studies can come out of them. A boxer is, for the most part, alone. Other sport films seem to suffer because more has to be captured and the sport itself is usually portrayed poorly and unrealistic. Boxing takes place in a small ring, as does the life of most boxers (or so it seems). Director Robert Rossen is also a master at creating pictures where a flawed main character creates his own suffering and pain and has a fundamental misunderstanding of women. Just see Broderick Crawford in ALL THE KING'S MEN or Paul Newman in THE HUSTLER.
No fight scene captures your attention until the pivotal final championship defense by "Charley Davis". Will he throw it for the easy bucks or win it for pride and the adulation of his simple New York roots? It is very unapparent and hard to see coming. The authenticity of the climactic fight is made all the more powerful with its newsreel look and in-your-face photography and makeup. Credit cinematographer James Wong Howe for the realistic look and credit the blood and sweat of Garfield, writer Abraham Polonsky, and director Rossen to bring such a captivating story of corruption and glory to the screen.
When considering the factors that contributed to making this movie one of truly great cinema classics, such as the story, the direction, the dialogue, the pathos, the conflicts, the supporting cast, the one factor that most directly contributed to making this movie great was that of it's star, John Garfield. Here, Garfield plays Charlie Davis, a brooding, moody, cynical, angry young man traumatized by his father's untimely and violent death and determined to literally fight his way out of poverty, no matter what it takes. Yet, Charlie Davis is likable, for despite the hardened exterior, he is still fundamentally a good man who is struggling to do what is right despite the pressure to cave in to those who merely want to use him. And although Charlie weakens, he never breaks, and when put to the test, his basic honesty and strength shine through, which makes him a hero and which transforms this movie from just another boxing movie into a true cinematic classic.
In many ways, 'Body and Soul' is a very typical Hollywood story. It has the 'local boy makes it big', the 'vamp and the virgin', the 'corrupt businessmen' and of course the final moral fight. However, James Wong Howe's brilliant cinematography and John Garfield's solid acting lift this movie above the norm. Every emotion is heart-felt, and the tension at the end is perfectly presented. One of the best boxing movies.
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
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.
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.
John Garfield delivers a worthy Oscar nominated performance in the
story of "Body and Soul."
Poor and from a tough neighborhood, Garfield sees boxing as a way out of his current existence.
As usual, veteran pro, Anne Revere, was called upon to play Garfield's mom. This terrific Oscar winning actress (1944 for National Velvet, in a supporting role) played just about everyone's mom in Hollywood during the 1940s. "Mom" to Gregory Peck in "Gentleman's Agreement," Linda Darnell's mother in "Forever Amber,"Montgomery Clift's mom in "A Place in the Sun" and Jennifer Jones'mother in "The Song of Bernadette." To me, Miss Revere, who was a descendant from Paul Revere, delivers a memorable line in the movie. To paraphrase, she states: "I want you to be respected. I want you to be a teacher." Sure, in 1947, the teaching profession was looked up to-to use a pun, it was revered.
Unfortunately, this great line has been overshadowed by the line, "Everybody dies." Must we always be true to life?
A hard-nosed, gripping film dealing not only with human emotions, but the fighting ring as well along with its corruption. A film exhibiting one wallop of a punch.
One especially noteworthy aspect of this movie is the character of Ben
Chaplin, played by the criminally underappreciated African American actor
Canada Lee. A trademark of Lee's few but memorable screen roles is how
characters transcend the racial stereotypes of the day (see also his role
"Lifeboat"). Where Chaplin is black, his race is never mentioned, and is
never even made an issue. There's no assumption of deferrence to the
characters. He is treated as an equal, which, especially for 1947, is an
The other strengths of the movie, particularly Garfield's performance and James Wong Howe's cinematography, have been duly mentioned in other posts.
This boxing picture deals with the seedier side of the business; (is
there any other?). It helps that it was written by Abraham Polonsky
whose script is suitably cynical and hard-boiled. John Garfield is the
pugnacious fighter easily swayed by the prospects of easy money and not
adverse to taking a dive. It's a fine, hard-nosed performance. Garfield
was always at his best in roles that required him to battle with his
The whole movie is well cast. The under-rated Lilli Palmer is fine as the 'nice' girl who loves him as is Hazel Brooks as the 'bad' girl who seduces him while the villains are ably taken care of by Lloyd Gough and William Conrad. Best of all there is Anne Revere as Garfield's mother. (Did Revere play everybody's mother movies?). It's another of her no-nonsense roles. Revere was one tough cookie who kept her heart of gold well-hidden. The climatic fight scene is very well staged and Robert Parrish and Frances Lyon's editing won the Oscar while James Wong Howe's cinematography adds considerably to the realism.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spoilers. "Body and Soul" is highly thought of by a lot of writers whose
opinions I respect, but it hasn't been seen very often on TV and I was
looking forward to viewing it for the first time. John Garfield, a man of
some principle in real life, has never impressed me as a first-rate actor
although you can't help admiring a kid who grew up in a tough working-class
New York neighborhood and made it. He seems to specialize in being shot
through glass windows trying to woo some good-looking babe. Such scenes
occur in "Destination Tokyo," "The Postman Always Rings Twice," and here
too. He plays a tough kid from a poor family in New York. His kindly
father dies when thugs bomb the speakeasy next door to his candy shop. Mom
is destitute, and Garfield takes up pro boxing for the money. He meets Lili
Palmer, a beautiful and appealing if lightweight actress, and takes her home
to meet his Mamma. There follows one of those rather familiar scenes in
which the Jewish mamma grills the Shiksa over the dinner table, as in
"Lenny," "No Way to Treat a Lady," and so forth. You can gather the plot
isn't what could be called novel, but it engages one's interest nonetheless.
Garfield proves to be a good fighter and soon begins his rise to the top,
assisted by his boyhood friend, Shorty, who is sensitive, good humored, and
has a charming smile. Garfield then begins to drown in an excess of tsuris.
He is taken over by corrupt gamblers, the equivalent of George C. Scott in
"The Hustler." Shorty objects. There is an argument and a fight and Shorty
is run over. Lili Palmer realizes how corrupt he is becoming and gives him
a choice: the fight game or her. The next thing we know, Garfield is
cavorting with some cover girl who has a penchant for mink. ("After mink,
comes sable.") Garfield unwittingly bashes in the head of a crippled
fighter (Canada Lee)the way the Argentinian Firpo does in "The Harder They
Fall." Garfield agrees to throw a tough fight to make a lot of money so he
can quit the ring and marry Lili. The supporting cast is pretty good,
especially William Conrad with his impressive baritone. Anne Revere, who
specializes in rigidity, whether good or bad, is unusually expressive.
Garfield's final fight is murderous. Does he actually throw it? I will
leave you in suspense.
The direction by Robert Rosson is adequate but he got better with time. Abraham Polonsky's script is okay too. Maybe some of these now-familiar scenes weren't quite as familiar in 1947 as they've since become. Polonsky, Revere, and Garfield all got into trouble during the McCarthy period, and it's hard to see why. If this is an example of communist propaganda you've got to have second sight to find it. Yes, Garfield's family is poor. (Is that what propaganda is?) Whose family wasn't poor during the depression? The streets and furnishings are pretty seedy, but more realistic after all than the white telephones and deco apartments of Fred and Ginger wearing tuxedoes and ballroom gowns.
"Body and Soul" compares only vaguely to "Golden Boy," I gather, not having seen the latter, but it invites comparison with "Champion," which appeared a year or two later. "Champion" is probably the better film, even if it follows an almost identical formula. There isn't anything here as subtle as Douglas returning to his estranged wife, striking a match for her, and seeing her glance up at him in a furtive and wholly unconscious invitation while she puffs from the flame. At the same time this film uses some nice symbolism. In his New York apartment, his first expensive digs, Garfield has a secret revolving wall. One side is bedecked with flowers and hung with a portrait of the virtuous Lili. The other side is a bar "with a sink and everything!" and it has "anything you want, bourbon, everything, like a candy store." It's practically Dr. Jeykll's flowers and Mr. Hyde's bar.
"Body and Soul" is definitely worth seeing, partly because it's pretty good and partly for its historic value.
|Page 1 of 5:||    |
|External reviews||Parents Guide||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|