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Champion (1949, Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy)

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Kirk Douglas plays boxer Midge Kelly, in tough, gritty drama Champion that opens as he steps into the ring to defend his world title and then tells his rise to fame through flashback. A drifter with his brother Connie (Arthur Kennedy), his only way out of the poverty of the Depression is to climb into the ring, under the guidance of trainer Tommy Haley (Paul Stewart).

But as he rises to the top, he tramples on everyone who’s helped him, from Haley to his first wife Emma (Ruth Roman), getting mixed up with the mob and, dangerously, Palmer Harris (Lola Albright), the wife of his new manager. His ruthlessness sees him eventually retain his title, but at a terrible cost.

Director Mark Robson drew an Oscar-nominated performance from Douglas that was to be his stepping stone to stardom, while Carl Foreman’s script, based on a story by Ring Lardner, America’s poet laureate of the sport, is reminiscent of the equally tough Raging Bull.

Academy Award Nominations: Carl Foreman, Franz Planer, Dmitri Tiomkin, Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy

production details
USA | Stanley Kramer | 99 minutes | 1949

Writer: Carl Foreman
Story: Ring Lardner
Cinematography: Franz Planer
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Director: Mark Robson

cast
Kirk Douglas as Michael ‘Midge’ Kelly
Arthur Kennedy as Connie Kelly
Marilyn Maxwell as Grace Diamond
Ruth Roman as Emma Bryce
John Daheim as Dunne
Paul Stewart as Tommy Haley
Lola Albright as Palmer Harris
Luis van Rooten as Harris
Harry Shannon as Lew
Ralph Sanford as Hammond
Esther Howard as Mrs. Kelly

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