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Champion (1949)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Film-Noir, Sport  |  9 April 1949 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 2,236 users  
Reviews: 46 user | 25 critic

Boxer Midge Kelly rises to fame...mainly by stepping on other people.



(screenplay), (story)
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Title: Champion (1949)

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 9 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Marilyn Maxwell ...
Luis Van Rooten ...
Harry Shannon ...
John Daheim ...
Dunne (as John Day)
Ralph Sanford ...
Esther Howard ...
Mrs. Kelly


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


This is the only sport in the world where two guys get paid for doing something they'd be arrested for if they got drunk and did it for nothing. See more »


Drama | Film-Noir | Sport


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 April 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

De kampioen  »

Box Office


$600,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Hal March, a popular 50s stage, film and TV personality, is seen here, as a mob enforcer meeting out punishment against Midge Kelly (Kirk Douglas) for Kelly's failure to "throw" a fight. March would later be implicated in a real life "fix", as he was host of the popular but ill fated TV quiz show "The $64,000 Questiion"(1955-57). This quiz show was cited in the 50s "Quiz Show Scandal", where some former contestants testified under oath that they were given information pertaining to the questions that they may be asked, in advance of their appearances on the show. See more »


Midge mangles the sculpture that Palmer has made of him, twisting the head out of alignment. In next shot, the head of statue is back in its original location. See more »


Tommy Haley: You know what a "Golem" is? I think I knew all the time I was building one.
See more »


Featured in Kirk Douglas: Before I Forget (2009) See more »


Never Be It Said
By Dimitri Tiomkin and Goldie Goldmark (as "Goldie" Goldmark)
Sung by Polly Bergen (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Kirk Knew What He Wanted
9 December 2005 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

According to the Films of Kirk Douglas book, Douglas was offered a choice between a big budget MGM loan out The Great Sinner and this small independent film Champion about boxing. For the first time in his career Douglas was able to show what a shrewd judge of stories that were tailor made for him.

He chose Champion and for his efforts earned his first trip to the Oscar Sweepstakes. He lost the big prize to Broderick Crawford for All the Kings Men. But from then on in Kirk Douglas was taken seriously as an actor. Douglas was also determined to break free of studio contracts and chart his own career. Some actors can and some are terrible judges of screen property. Kirk Douglas has always been in the first category.

The story involved two brothers, Kirk Douglas and Arthur Kennedy, who when we first meet them are bumming their way across the country to take possession of a diner that was sold to them bogusly. To earn some eating money, Kirk had gone the distance in a four round preliminary fight and came to the attention of fight manager Paul Stewart. Now dead broke, Douglas turns to Stewart who takes him on as a prize fighter, for real.

Douglas can't forget those days in the hobo jungle and is willing to do anything, use anybody to rise to the top of his profession. His role is a complex one, he's ruthless and tough, but he also has to have enough charm to fool the three women who enter his life, Ruth Roman, Marilyn Maxwell, and Lola Albright.

Arthur Kennedy got an Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actor category as Douglas's brother and conscience. Paul Stewart is every inch the wise professional fight manager who steps out of his league when Douglas gets into the big money in the fight game.

There's not a moviegoer who's ever seen Champion who will forget the primeval look on Kirk Douglas's face in the climatic fight scene in defense of his championship as he gets back up from the last of several knockdowns. Like something out of a Hammer horror picture, it's that frightening. You won't forget it either.

28 of 30 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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