Friday, September 27, 2019

Bogey. Steiger. Sterling. Lane. Andrews. Baer. Walcott. Schulberg. Yordan. TCM’s Film Noir of the Week Saturday Night-Sunday Morning at Midnight and 10 a.m. E.T. is the Boxing Masterpiece, The Harder They Fall (1956), Humphrey Bogart’s Last Film



By David in TN
Friday, September 27, 2019 at 6:11:00 P.M. EDT

TCM’s Film Noir of the Week Saturday Night-Sunday Morning at Midnight and 10 a.m. E.T. is The Harder They Fall (1956), Humphrey Bogart’s last film. It also stars Rod Steiger, Jan Sterling, Mike Lane, Max Baer, Jersey Joe Walcott, directed by Philp Yordan and based on Budd Schulberg’s novel.


Film Noir Guide: “Bogart, a down and out sportswriter, takes a job as a P.R. man for a crooked fight promoter (Steiger) who has discovered a new boxing sensation in Argentina. When Steiger realizes that the 275-pound gentle giant (Lane) has a ‘powder puff punch and a glass jaw,’ he sends the ‘Wild Man of the Andes’ on a promotional tour of fixed prizefights, with the ultimate aim of pitting him against the heavyweight champion (Baer). Then, of course, Steiger will bet against Lane, who by now believes he’s invincible.


Edward Andrews and George Cisar

“Meanwhile, Bogey begins having guilt pangs, especially after his wife (Sterling) leaves him as a result of his moral descent. When a boxer dies in the ring while fighting Lane, the grief-stricken Argentine wants to give up fighting. Bogey, who knows that the fighter died as a result of injuries sustained in a previous bout with Baer, convinces Lane to go ahead with his fight against the champ, who is in no mood to go easy on his overrated opponent. The Harder They Fall is a brutal and unglamorous exposé of the fight game, with Bogart (in his final role before succumbing to cancer in 1957) outstanding as the writer with a serious moral dilemma. Steiger is excellent as the heartless promoter, and former heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott gives a surprisingly good showing as Lane's compassionate trainer.”


There is a lot more to say about this film. Schulberg based the novel on Primo Carnera, for whom mob figures arranged a series of fixed fights in the 1930s, even making him heavyweight champion in 1933. He was badly beaten (1934 in real life) by Max Baer, who plays the man who beats him in the movie.

By the way, Max Baer was not like the character he plays in the 1956 movie, a brutal fighter “who loves to pound a man into jelly.” The real-life Max Baer did kill a man in the ring and tended to play the clown from then on. Baer’s claim to fame as a fighter was a fearsome right hand, when motivated. Another oddity of this film—the fighter who dies in the movie was played by former contender Pat Comiskey, whom Max Baer knocked out with one right-handed punch in the first round in a 1940 bout.

I'm looking forward to what Eddie Muller says about The Harder They Fall. Will he tell the audience something of the above? Or will he rant about Budd Schulberg?


“Dempsey Through the Ropes” by George Bellows 1923 Dempsey vs. Firpo Championship Bout (BOXREC). N.S.: Another real-life source for this story was the 1920s, South American prizefighter, Luis Firpo, “the wild man of the Pampas.” Legend had it that Firpo had “won” a series of bouts that had been fixed, in order to get a championship fight with Jack Dempsey in 1923. Firpo and his supporters always denied this. No one knows for sure, and both sides have their partisans, but what we do know is that although at one point, Firpo knocked Dempsey out of the ring, Dempsey beat Firpo half to death.

N.S.: Red Eddie had better have something substantial to say, given that he has often bragged about how his old man was a lifer newspaper boxing reporter.

By Grand Rapids Anonymous
Friday, July 13, 2018 at 2:49:00 P.M. EDT

Internet info:

In 1947 fighting aficionado Budd Schulberg wrote The Harder They Fall, a novel about a giant boxer whose fights are fixed. In 1956 a movie with the same name, and based on the novel, was released by Columbia Pictures. A highlight was the appearance of Max Baer, playing a fighter the mob could not fix who destroys the giant in his first fair fight. Critics drew parallels with the real-life Baer-Carnera fight two decades before. In response, Carnera unsuccessfully sued the movie company.


Bogie and Mike Lane

By David in TN
Monday, July 16, 2018 at 12:06:00 A.M. EDT

There were two endings filmed for The Harder They Fall. In the one shown on TCM it ends with Bogart writing an article starting with, “The boxing business must rid itself of the evil influence of racketeers and crooked managers, even if it takes an act of congress to do it.”

The ending I saw on a late show run of the film 30 plus years ago had it, “Boxing in the United States should be banned, if it takes an act of congress to do it.” This was the ending used in the theatrical run. Budd Schulberg complained. He didn’t actually want boxing banned, just “cleaned up.”

I think all prints now shown have the “rid itself of the evil influence of racketeers and crooked managers” ending.

1 comment:

David In TN said...

TCM's Film Noir of the Week Saturday Night-Sunday Morning at 12:15 am ET and 10 am ET is Trapped (1949). Lloyd bridges, John Hoyt, James Todd, and Barbara Payton star, directed by Richard Fleischer.

Film Noir Guide: "Convict Bridges, serving time for counterfeiting, is set free to help the Secret Service find the gang that's using his old counterfeiting plates. Bridges escapes the T-Men, foolishly thinking he's pulled a fast one, but it's all part of the agents' plan, as is their surveillance of his girlfriend (Payton). Hoyt, who usually was typecast as a gangster or an evil Nazi, is the Treasury agent who goes undercover to gain bridges' trust and to nab Todd, the head of the ring. Bridges was always terrific as a bad guy, and though he's not quite as despicable here as in Try and Get Me, he still elicits his share of hisses. Despite its similarities to T-Men, Trapped stands on its own as a suspenseful and well-plotted noir."

This is the first time Trapped has ever been on TCM, according to our host Eddie Muller.

Speaking of Red Eddie, he did an excellent job last week with The Harder They Fall (1956). Eddie said Budd Schulberg was a friendly witness while screenwriter Philip Yordan was often a front for blacklisted writers, but Eddie praised Schulberg for caring about fighters and calling for cleaning out crooked elements.

And Eddie mentioned everything I pointed out above--Max Baer's real life fight with Primo Carnera and knockout of Pat Comiskey, along with the "hard" and "soft" endings. Schulberg eventually won out with the soft ending.

Eddie recalled John Huston's eulogy at Humphrey Bogart's funeral; "There will never be another like him." Eddie said "There never has been."