59 user 38 critic

Champion (1949)

Approved | | Drama, Film-Noir, Sport | 20 May 1949 (USA)
Boxer Midge Kelly rises to fame...mainly by stepping on other people.


Mark Robson


Carl Foreman (screenplay), Ring Lardner (story "Champion")
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 9 nominations. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Kirk Douglas ... Midge
Marilyn Maxwell ... Grace
Arthur Kennedy ... Connie
Paul Stewart ... Haley
Ruth Roman ... Emma
Lola Albright ... Palmer
Luis Van Rooten Luis Van Rooten ... Harris
Harry Shannon ... Lew
John Daheim John Daheim ... Dunne (as John Day)
Ralph Sanford ... Hammond
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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


kiss by kiss... blow by blow... he was the... CHAMPION See more »


Drama | Film-Noir | Sport


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Pink Floyd's song "Lost for Words" used a boxing match sound from this movie as a background (the announcer words - "Ladies and gentlemen, the winner by a knockout..." in the fight where Midge knocks down the boxer he was fixed to lose). The song appears in "The Division Bell" album, released in 1994. 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 »


Connie: [taking the high road about Midge to a reporter] He was a champion. He went out like a champion. He was a credit to the fight game until the very end.
See more »

Alternate Versions

a cut out of this film was sold in France for the home movie market under the name "Un round sanglant" See more »


Referenced in The Twilight Zone: To Serve Man (1962) See more »


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

User Reviews

A gritty melodrama – not great but good
5 April 2003 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

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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Release Date:

20 May 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Champion See more »


Box Office


$600,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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