Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Champ (1931)

Directed by: King Vidor

Starring: Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper

Plot: A washed-up ex-boxer tries to raise his son in Tijuana while struggling to set up a comeback bout.

Thoughts: Holy smokes, what a tearjerker. You can't help but feel sorry for the father-son pair, especially when the dad has really bad habits like drinking and gambling. Despite this, it's both amazing and touching that a son could be so devoted to such a person. This was a well-done drama starring two former Best Actor nominees and it's no wonder the Academy considered this for Best Motion Picture.

Frances Marion turned in another terrific script (she also wrote the screenplay for The Big House) full of heart and flawed yet likable characters. While the characters were likable, it seemed that life behind the scenes was anything but. According to Jackie Cooper's autobiography, his co-star, Wallace Beery, was "the most sadistic person [he's] ever known." Given such tension, it's quite a testament to both actors that the final product turned out so well.

The Champ was first remade in 1953 as The Clown with Red Skelton where Frances Marion dusted off this film's script and changed it slightly. Of course, the 1979 remake with Ricky Schroeder is famous for Schroeder's overreaching waterworks at the end.

The Champ took home a Best Actor award for Wallace Beery as the eponymous champ (interesting side note: Fredric March also won Best Actor that year for Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde due to peculiar voting rules) and also Best Writing, Original Story, for Frnaces Marion's terrific screenplay (her second award for writing). The film also earned a nomination for Best Director (his third for directing).


  1. So what are these peculiar rules?

  2. The voting rules at the time dictated that a tie vote occurred if the count was one or two less than the leader. Beery received one vote less than March.

    Of course, Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being a horror film, there's no way it would have received a Best Motion Picture nomination. It was a hell of a better than Arrowsmith.