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William A. Seiter
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 <email@example.com>
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.
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