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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2003
Format: DVD
Interesting that right around the same time--the late 40s--three different films were all released with basically the same theme and plot: The Set-Up (w. Robert Ryan); Champion (w. Kirk Douglas); and Body and Soul (w. John Garfield). Ryan's film is a very good piece of work while the Garfield film is, by today's standards, heavy-handed, thus dated. But the Kirk Douglas film is, in fact, the Champion.
The boxing scenes are realistic--in spite of Douglas' recent nose job, made during filming, preventing any of his sparring partners to hit anywhere near his schnozz. But more than anything else, it's Douglas' tremendous charisma and energy that raise this film above the norm. Douglas, as did Garfield in the earlier Body and Soul, plays a guy mired in poverty who sees boxing as a quick way out of the hole and, once initially successful, wants nothing but more: both money and success. And nothing standing in his way will prevent him from getting what he wants. But while Garfield's portrayal of selfishness is forced and, as well, entrenched in cliched dialogue, both Douglas' acting and the far more intelligent script make Midge Kelly's (Douglas) relentless quest for power tremendously believable.
Arthur Kennedy is Connie, Midge's brother whose leg was busted when he was a kid and now walks with a cane. The three--yep, count 'em, three--women in Midge's life add a lot of juice to the film and a nice touch is the casting of a brunette who's Midge's girl when he's poor and two blondes when he's rich and successful. Back in them days, blondes were IT. (Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield carried on the tradition).
Champion gives you a great view of life in the late 40s as well. It's also interesting that the director, Mark Robson, was part of the Val Lewton school of horror directors (which also included Robert Wise), so makes excellent use with his cinematographer of light and shadow. This is not exactly a film noir, but does have several noirish traits--camera lighting, and thematic corruption and desperation.
This is more a precursor to Raging Bull than Rocky; the latter character is always good, while DeNiro's character is akin to Midge Kelly--rising quickly from a life in the streets to attain fame and fortune, even if toes get stepped on and hearts gets smashed to pieces (Rocky would never do stuff like that).
A strong piece of cinema; recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Kirk Douglas as the classic greek tragic figure: a hero with a fatal flaw.

Arthur Kennedy and Kirk Douglas play down-on-their-luck brothers (Connie and Midge Kelly, respectively) travelling west to take possession of their part ownership of a restaurant. When they arrive they discover that they had been scammed. Along the way out to the restaurant, Midge made a little money at a boxing exhibition where he caught the eye of a promotor. Midge and Connie work for a while at the restaurant, but Midge's single-minded pursuit of a better life and the respect he feels he deserves causes him to abandon his newly minted wife and head out to seek his fortune in the boxing ring. Midge is a single-minded character like none you've ever seen. This single-mindedness drags him down, extinguishing his humanity as he climbs his way upward. As with most tragic heroes, he finally sacrifices himself when he allows his misdeeds to finally engulf him.

Kirk is fabulous. The fight scenes are convincing and well filmed. The story hops along. This movie represents Arthur Kennedy's most accessible performance as the humane, crippled brother representing the greek chorus reminding the main character of his morality. This is an excellent movie.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
Kirk Douglas plays an emotionally bankrupt man driven by poverty and anger to become a champion prizefighter. His energy and confidence attract love and loyalty from people who contribute to his success but become hurt and disillusioned by his ingratitude and betrayal. The plot is fairly simple, but the film holds interest through its portrayal of a man devoid of self-understanding, whose ambition can never truly be satisfied despite his apparent success. The most intense scenes are in the boxing ring, where no amount of punishment can stop him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2007
Format: DVD
4.5 stars. I heard so much about this film for so long, so I finally sat down and watched it. At first I didn't think I was going to like it, because the lighting bothered me. But as the film progressed, the lighting fit. Douglas plays an ambitious boxer in the 1940s who like most celebrities get caught up and those around him are the first to get burned. I agree with the assessment that this film is like a Greek tragedy. i kept wanting for Kelly to snap out of it, but alas...
This movie a classic for a reason and if you haven't seen it, you need to do yourself a favor and check it out.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2005
Format: DVD
Kirk Douglas was marvelous in creating a signature role in his portrayal of boxer and eventual champion Midge Kelly in the hard hitting, gritty 1949 flick "Champion". Based on a story by the revered author Ring Lardner, the movie chronicles the rise and inevitable fall of Kelly.

Hitchhiking to the west coast with his crippled brother Connie played poignantly by Arthur Kennedy, Douglas gets briefly introduced to the world of boxing but rejects it. The brothers are headed to California to take over a diner in which they purchased a share. Realizing they'd been swindled by the rightful owner Lew Bryce played by Harry Shannon when they arrive there, they take a job in the place.

Douglas and Shannon's daughter Emma played by Ruth Roman fall in love, but a hastily arranged shotgun wedding spoils things and Douglas runs out. He seeks out boxing trainer Tommy Haley played by Paul Stewart who he'd met previously. Stewart takes Douglas under his wing and under his tutelage and supported by his brother Douglas becomes a seasoned and tough boxing contender.

Unable to get a deserved title shot he dumps his trainer and signs on with a high rolling and connected trainer Jerry Harris after being seduced by bad girl Grace Diamond played by platinum tressed Marilyn Maxwell.

Douglas commences to foresake all those who care for him as he climbs his way to the top eschewing his brother, manager, mother and estranged but still caring wife. His whole personna becomes altered to mimic the beast he becomes inside the ring. He begins to see the error of his ways on the eve of an important title fight, bringing his closest allies back into his life. The seeds of tragedy have already been planted however and Douglas faces an ignoble future.

Mark Robson crafts this flick like a Shakespearean tragedy and Douglas demonstrates great skill playing the doomed and destructive pugilist. This fine flick won an Oscar for film editing and well deserved nominations for both Douglas and Kennedy.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
IN A NUTSHELL: A REAL WINNER

Before "Raging Bull" and "Rocky" there was "Champion". This movie was one of Stanley Kramer's first and it is stark and powerful in a very compelling way. The incredible film editing won an Academy Award in 1949 and it is up there with "The Harder They Fall" among boxing cinematic masterpieces. If you want a "reel" experience and boxing is of interest to you, this flick is a must see.

* THE CAST *

Kirk Douglas - Midge Kelly
Marilyn Maxwell - Grace Diamond
Arthur Kennedy - Connie Kelly
Paul Stewart - Tommy Haley
Ruth Roman - Emma Bryce

* THE PRODUCTION CREW *

Mark Robson - Director
Stanley Kramer - Producer
Carl Foreman - Screenwriter
Ring Lardner, Jr. - Short Story Author
Franz Planer - Cinematographer
Goldie Goldmark - Songwriter
Dimitri Tiomkin - Composer (Music Score)
Harry Gerstad - Editor

* THE MAJOR AWARDS *

Best Actor (nom) Kirk Douglas 1949 Academy
Best Black and White Cinematography (nom) Franz Planer 1949 Academy
Best Drama or Comedy Score (nom) Dimitri Tiomkin 1949 Academy
Best Editing (win) Harry Gerstad 1949 Academy
Best Screenplay (nom) Carl Foreman 1949 Academy
Best Supporting Actor (nom) Arthur Kennedy 1949 Academy
Best Director (nom) Mark Robson 1949 Directors Guild of America
10 Best Films (win) 1949 Film Daily
Best Cinematography (win) Franz Planer 1949 Golden Globe
New Star of the Year - Female (nom) Ruth Roman 1949 Golden Globe
Best Direction (nom) Mark Robson 1949 New York Film Critics Circle
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
There can be no reservations about "Champion". It is a virtually perfect film. The title is ironic. The film opens as the champion, Midge Kelly(Kirk Douglas) enters the ring to defend his title smiling to the cheers of the approving crowd. The ringside radio commentator hurls all these superlatives about the greatness of Kelly that is probably eaten up by the listeners. The scene is revisited later after events transpire and the meaning of this scene changes remarkably. Kelly's smile now seems like an evil smirk and the commentators blatherings seem cynical. "Champion" is primarily a character study of how fame and fortune can harden the human heart unless that heart isn't already inclined to turn. In the beginning Midge is drifting from one menial job to another with his handicapped brother Connie (Arthur Kennedy) in tow just to eke out an existence. He reluctantly takes up club fighting but he finds he likes the roaring approval of the crowd. At first the ferocity he brings to the ring is a reflection of the anger and resentment of those who slammed the door in his face. As he moves up the ranks this ferocity turns into something more insidious and despicable. The fame and fortune that boxing brought him has made him a loathsome user who disposes of the people in his life like he dispatches opponents in the ring. What Douglas delivers in his film cannot be understated. In a carefully tuned performance he subtley demonstrates the changes in Kelly. He dares the audience to loathe his character but doesn't dehumanize him in the process. The supporting cast aside from the Oscar nominated Douglas and Kennedy are uniformly excellent but the work of Paul Stewart is noteworthy in the role of Kelly's manager who is all to aware of the pitfalls of the fight game. Technically this film is first rate with superb photography, editing, art direction, and another memorable score by Dimitri Tiomkin. When they say they don't make them like this anymore that's not wholly true. The admirable thing about movies like "Champion" is they can tackle mature themes without being overly explicit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2008
Format: DVD
.....For release in 1949 "CHAMPION" was a knockout of the bestial fight game/racket and still is today...Kirk Douglas is immense as a nobody pugilist fighting for seed money in tank towns in the backwater of this 'sport'...he is exploited by minion boxing promoters [ reneging on his purse monies] in crummy arenas...bloody fights one after another driven by his sagacious manager, Paul Stewart who is a loyal pal..they manage get a shot at being "CHAMPION"...it happens and a whole new devious/cunning world opens at Kirk's feet...the rush of big money fights beckon and he goes for his avarice of greed and dumps his loyal manager to be a money-maker prizefighter and a pawn of the money-lenders pulling the strings behind the scenes...he married Ruth Roman as a nobody pug and forgot about her [ like a wave of the hand] and gets deeeeeply involved with the delicious Marilyn Maxwell another money-hungry, socialite-bloodsucker for the boxing limelight at cocktails and dreams parties...also Kirk's sayonara scene to beautiful Lola Albright is the classic kiss-off...he prefers hundreds of thousands of dollars to her feminine charms that he has tasted from trysts with her....this kiss-off scene is the apex of the venial Kirk in this portrayal as a "CHAMPION".....this movie touches on the greed for fame-fortune-acclaim...and disregarding family members and friends of his past he blatantly cast aside, as the flesh is weak in Kirk, as he sells himself out to the highest bidder...Kirk is the "CHAMPION"....this is a must see DVD; plus, the tranfer is cyrstal clear, too and all for a reasonable price...the fight scenes are realistically very good and graphic, also. ....SSGT CHRIS SARNO-USMC FMF
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Kirk Douglas gave a knock out performance in the role of an unscrupulous man who through his attempt to climmb the eternal snows of the stardom and the championship has not any problem to alineate his wife, brother, boss or any other who avoids him to reach the coveted prize.

Robert Bresson stated once: "To be models instead of seeming actors". That fits appropriately for Kirk (Midge Kelly), but also for Kramer who produced it and Robson who directed it.

Somehow, this feature keeps a narrow resemblance respect other film starred by Douglas years later: "An ace in the hole" directed by Billy Wilder. Ruth Roman (one of the most beautiful actresses the screen is proud to show.

All the cast is outstanding. And the realism beneath every single detail make it a memoarble picture inch by inch. Don't miss it because you would have an enormous void in your filmic hard disk.

A true collector item. No doubt.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2005
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
You can't beat Dalton Trumbo's screenplay. Kirk Douglas nails it. Entire cast just right.

Rocky was fun, Raging Bull was powerful--but Champion

is the winner. The ending will knock the breath out of you.
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