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Midge Kelly, hitchhiking west with lame brother Connie, is hustled unprepared into a pro boxing match. Though he's severely beaten, manager Tommy Haley finds him promising. Arrived in California, Midge and Connie find nothing but a menial job from which Midge gets relief by seducing Emma, a lovely young waitress. One shotgun marriage later, ambitious Midge falls back on the only option he knows: boxing. Seduced by cheering crowds, money, and a succession of blondes, Midge becomes more and more of a hero in public...and a heel in private. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As the commentator announces the entrance of World Champion boxer Midge Kelly as he prepares to defend his title for the 4th of 5th time, we flashback to many years before, where Midge and his brother are riding trains looking for work. Midge is renown for having pulled himself up from the gutter through boxing, however his story is one littered with hurts and damage he has caused in his relentless pursuit of success.
This is a solid boxer film, even if it is really more of a melodrama than the hard nosed thriller that the pictures of a battered Kirk Douglas suggest it might be. The plot is good in the way we first see the image of a triumphant boxer but then flash back to add meat to the bare bones of the legend. Along it is a melodrama the boxing scenes and some tough male confrontation give it a grittier edge. The weakness is that we aren't allowed to judge Midge ourselves, with some boxing noirs the boxer is laid bare if he's brutal then we're allowed to see that. Here we're allowed to see the damage he does but from the get-go it is excused by a harsh background, poor childhood etc. Even at the end Midge is allowed redemption of a sort. This gives it a sappy edge that takes away from the drama and grit.
The main reason it works so well is a great performance by Douglas. He hogs the attention when he is onscreen and really paints a realistic character for us to digest. Although the script gives Midge excuses, Douglas does not he shows Midge at his best and at his most brutal and self seeking with equal measure, forcing neither side to the fore. He is well supported by good understated performances by Kennedy as his brother and Stewart as his manager. The women are important in Midge's story but none of the actresses really made an impression. When they are all in one scene towards the end I struggled to remember who was who.
Overall this is not the gritty noir I'd hoped it would be, more a melodrama. The script is weakened by defending the character but Douglas carries the film over any weakness by the strength of his performance.
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