Boxing Film Noir

By Ted Sares on February 15, 2013
Boxing Film Noir
Robert Wise's The Set-Up is all about grit and reality. It’s all about losers remaining losers.

“Dark rooms with light slicing through venetian blinds, alleys cluttered with garbage, abandoned warehouses where dust hangs in the air…”

“Film Noir is the flip side of the all-American success story.”—Eddie Muller

“Noir was about the other, the ‘dark self’ and the alienation in the modern American city manifested in psychosis, criminality, and paranoia. It was also born of an existential despair which had more to do with the desperate loneliness of urban life in the aftermath of the Depression. Noir writer Cornell Woolrich, for example, was a lonely and repressed individual, who spent his life in hotel rooms.”1

Years ago I read an announcement that stated, “Boxing Noir” is the only way one can describe the danger, the intrigue and the revenge elements of the pay-per-view under card of “X-Plosive!” headlined by undefeated Miguel Cotto’s welterweight title defense against former two-division world champion Zab Judah at Madison Square Garden on June 9, 2007. Boxing noir! That fight was compelling, but had absolutely positively nothing to do with boxing noir. Let’s examine this most interesting and at times maligned term called film noir.

Sometimes it can be defined as an expression as in simply watching an angst-ridden movie like The Third Man, Soylent Green, or the quintessential 1958 noir classic Touch of Evil. Others included Laura (1940), Murder, My Sweet (1944), a straight adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel “Farewell, My Lovely,” The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Big Heat (1953), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), and Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944), a film that contains many of noir’s characteristics.

If you like films such as the 1981 Thief (with its driving soundtrack by Tangerine Dream), the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple (1984) and Miller’s Crossing (1990), Mulholland Drive (a 2001 neo noir that also features an acclaimed noir-tinged soundtrack), Road to Perdition (2002), History of Violence (2005) directed by David Cronenberg, or Eastern Promises (2007), chances are pretty good you like the stuff of noir. A personal favorite was the 1953 French film, Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la peur) starring Yves Montand—arguably one of the most suspenseful movies ever made! For a more detailed look at Noir films, see http://annyas.com/screenshots/film-noir/

Noir’s Characteristic

Noir itself is associated with a low key black and white film visual style that has roots in German cinematography. The term was coined by French critics to describe the moody, anxious feel of postwar American movies. It would take many pages to give this subject its proper due. The following, however, is an excellent, albeit brief, description:

“Dark rooms with light slicing through venetian blinds, alleys cluttered with garbage, abandoned warehouses where dust hangs in the air, rain-slickened streets with water still running in the gutters, dark detective offices overlooking busy streets: this is the stuff of film noir—that most magnificent of film forms—a perfect blend of form and content, where the desperation and hopelessness of the situations is reflected in the visual style, which drenches the world in shadows and only occasional bursts of sunlight. Film noir, occasionally acerbic, usually cynical, and often enthralling, gave us characters trying to elude some mysterious past that continues to haunt them, hunting them down with a fatalism that taunts and teases before delivering the final, definitive blow.”2

I’m no expert on cinematography, but I clearly recognize noir when I see it. Many of the stories and much of the attitude of classic noir emerged in the U.S. during the Depression. It depicts mean, wet, and edgy urban streets. Cigarette-smoking abounds and the heroes tend to be depressive and moody. The abandoned warehouses or sleazy bars are dangerous settings and the slinky and sexy women are just as dangerous.

Noir includes lots of black and white shadows as a backdrop to hardboiled crime fiction. Harsh highlights and expressionist shadows are played to the max. The visuals also contain angles and sudden depth.

Subgenres

In my view, boxing noir is a subgenre and one of the very best at that. Certain boxing movies quickly come to mind, The Champion, The Set-Up (my favorite), The Harder They Fall, Body and Soul, Golden Boy, Raging Bull, and a sleeper, The Killers.

The Killers (1946) was based upon an Ernest Hemingway’s short story in which insurance investigator James Riordan, played by Edmond O’Brien, tries to unravel the mystery of why a broken-down boxer named Ole Anderson (AKA The Swede), played in a superbly low key way by Burt Lancaster in his screen debut, allowed two hitmen (Charles McGraw and William Conrad) to murder him without any resistance. Within a backdrop of black and white shadowing that enhances this suspense-ridden and exciting classic, Riordan uncovers the Swede’s shady past.

There was very little boxing depicted; suspense generated by the fights is completely beside the point in many of these boxing-related noir films.

The Set-Up

“Made in 1949, [Robert] Wise’s The Set-Up marked a peculiar and highly successful marriage of these two tendencies. On the one hand, it’s a terrific pulpy boxing story and on the other, it’s a landmark of technical brilliance.”—Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Set-Up (1949) is based on a poem by Joseph Monsure March, is shot in real time (72 uninterrupted amazing minutes), and is a classic example of film noir. It’s a totally absorbing movie considered by many to be one of the most realistic and gripping boxing films ever made.

This film is all about grit and reality—no Rocky Balboas here—it’s all about losers remaining losers. And it unfolds in a place where all the characters are stuck regardless of their desire to get out, no matter their relative status.

Boxing is on Wednesdays, wresting is on Fridays. Stoker Thompson is on Paradise City’s Wednesday card fighting Tiger Nelson after the main event. Stoker been 20 years in the game and is sure he is just one punch away from the top. Sure he is.

The movie starred Robert Ryan (a noteworthy amateur fighter in real life) as aging and shopworn boxer Bill “Stoker” Thompson. His manager, Tiny (played by George Tobias), is certain he will lose his last match so he takes fifty dollar bribe money for a “dive” from “Little Boy,” a tough gambler (played by Alan Baxter), but he is so certain of winning his bet, he doesn’t bother to tell Stoker. Suspense builds when Stoker resolves to beat the arrogant and heavily favored upstart Nelson.

Stoker, meanwhile, unsuccessfully tries to convince his wife, Julie (played by the fetching Audrey Totter), that he is still only “one punch away” from a “top spot.” In an eerie precursor to the real life saga of Bobby Chacon, she begs him to retire from the ring. As Stoker enters the ring, he is shocked and dismayed to see that Julie’s seat is empty.

Unaware of the bribe, Stoker goes after Tiger like, well, a tiger, and by the end of the second round has Nelson against the ropes. He continues to press the action in round three, but is nearly knocked out. A shocked Nelson then calls him a “fink,” alluding to the fact he is welshing on the bribe (which, of course, Stoker knows nothing about).

The film is chock full of symbolism. Indeed, a scene in which Stoker reflects in the locker room in front of other much younger boxers awaiting their fight is a tour de force. The fight sequence is savage with close-ups of Stoker’s interpolating with cutaways of fat, sweaty-faced spectators caught in the orgiastic throes of bloodlust over the savage violence they are witnessing and relishing.

Inside this particular arena, ironically called Paradise City, humanity exists at its lowest level. Sadism is reflected in even the most innocuous-looking fans, such as a vindictive blind man repeating “go for his eyes!” This remarkable scene has stayed with me for over 60 years. These “fans” come not so much to see a favorite boxer win as to witness a hapless one lose, but more than likely they are transitioning their own misery onto Stoker.

Meanwhile, fearful that Stoker might win, the treacherous and greedy Tiny finally tells him about the bribe and begs him to take a dive. Instead, and energized by his remaining sense of pride, the exhausted Stoker brutally bludgeons the blond headed Tiger and knocks him into paradise in the fourth and final round.

Stoker is aware that the gambler’s thugs are waiting to attack him outside, and he tries to get away but is trapped in a shadowy and wet alley. Stoker manages to slug Little Boy in the face, but the enraged gambler then crushes Stoker’s hand with a brick. Sometime later, Julie sees Stoker stumble out of the alley and rushes to his side. As she holds him in her arms, she asks his forgiveness and assures him that they “both won tonight.”3

Robert Ryan was superb—full of spirit, kindness, strength and courage—but surrounded by people who were just the opposite.

Along with Orson Welles, Sterling Hayden, and Robert Mitchum, Ryan also filled the bill. After graduating from Dartmouth where he was college boxing champion, the Chicago native worked as a stoker on a ship, a laborer, and a ranch hand in Montana. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in January 1944 and became a drill instructor.

Martin Scorsese says that The Set-Up inspired many elements in his Raging Bull, the award winning tragedy based on the real-life story of middleweight boxing champion, Jake LaMotta. In Scorsese’s film, he is able to create images of beauty while depicting the ugliness that emerges from LaMotta’s paranoid-generated violence. Again, this one deals more with the psychology of brutality than it does with boxing, and the similarities to The Set-Up are manifest, even though I believe the latter achieved more humanity.

The several decades following The Killers and The Set-Up featured a number of boxing movies. Some were noir, some were not. In fact, and some were darn right awful, but I’m not going there.

The Harder They Fall

“That man lies in the hospital with a broken jaw! He took the worst beating I ever saw in my life! You want me to go back there and tell him that all he gets is a lousy $49.07 for a broken jaw? How much would YOU take?”—Humphrey Bogart to Rod Steiger, after learning how much Toro Moreno would get for his final match.4

The Harder They Fall (1956), based on the 1947 novel by Budd Schulberg, is a noir boxing film. Sportswriter Eddie Willis, played by Humphrey Bogart (in his last role), is broke after losing his newspaper column and is hired by boxing promoter Nick Benko, superbly played by Rod Steiger. Eddie is to act as publicist for Nick’s new boxer, a naïve giant Argentinian giant named Toro Moreno.

Unknown to Toro, a number of his fights are fixed to make the public believe he is for real. Eddie promotes the fights, but guilt soon sets in. The story comes to a climax when Benko arranges for Toro to fight a vengeful heavyweight champ played by the menacing Max Baer in a fight that can’t be fixed. The similarities to the Primo Carnera saga are stark.

Curiously, the movie predated the breakup of the IBC and the jailing of Jim Norris and the Mob leaders in New York and Philadelphia. The character Eddie Willis (Bogart) is supposedly based on the career of boxing writer and event promoter Harold Conrad. Baer and Jersey Joe Walcott are particularly convincing in their respective roles. One depicts evil and malice; the other compassion and kindness. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOHE4-FVddI

Rod Serling was best known for his TV series “The Twilight Zone,” but he wrote an hour-long teleplay for Playhouse 90 in 1956 which six years later became the film Requiem for a Heavyweight starring Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney. This realistic movie touched on the dreaded dementia pugilistica or “punch drunk syndrome.”

As for real-life boxers, I remember a hairy-chested Marcel Cerdan in smoke-hazy Madison Square Garden getting ready to war with Georgie Abrams. There was Sonny Liston, who had a noirish gangster quality about him. Carlos Monzon had it in a more surreal and romantic sense. Of course, Jake LaMotta was all about noir all of the time. Chicago heavyweight Bob Satterfield had an aura of impending tragedy, and Philadelphia gym legend Roy “Tiger” Williams reflected pure malice. When Hagler entered the ring in a white hooded robe and bald head, there were flashes of nourish menace to be sure.

Stoker sitting on a bench and contemplating the situation was quintessential noir, but it just didn’t get any better than when Max Baer (as the heartless Buddy Brannen) sauntered over to the doomed Gus Dundee’s corner to wish him well against the duped Toro Moreno in The Harder They Fall, or when the hypocritical Nick Benko led his sleazy associates in a prayer for the doomed Gus Dundee’s recovery. This stuff was palpable and back then I knew what it was without knowing what it was.

This brings me back to the June 9 fight between Miguel Cotto and Zab Judah. The body punching Cotto stalked a game Judah perhaps in the manner of a LaMotta stalking his prey. But boxing noir? Heavens no.

1. “What is Film Noir?”—Unidentified author from http://filmsnoir.net/what-is-film-noir#ixzz2Kc7NefXS
2. images; a journal of film and popular culture. “Ten Shades of Noir.” Undated. Available from http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue02/infocus/ filmnoir.htm
3. American Film Institute, The Set-Up, 1949; available from http://www.afi.com/wise/films/set_up/su.html
4. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, The Harder They Fall, 13 June 2007; available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Harder_They_Fall

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Champion (1949) with Kirk Douglas



The Set Up - 1949 - Clip



«The Harder They Fall»



Body and Soul (1947)



MOVIE TRAILER -- "REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT" (1962)



The Killing - Trailer



Raging Bull (HD Trailer)



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  1. Ted 09:36am, 06/17/2013

    Thanks Michael. This was one of my most enjoyable ones to write.

  2. Michael Hegan 09:07am, 06/17/2013

    OK…if nobody else will say it…..ROCKY…..with sly stallone ....

    about how a Champion had to fulfill his fight obligations and fight to defend his Title.   
    the dark side came out…when it didn’t matter who the opponent was…it just had to be on THAT DAY…

    Reminds me of Ali….scrambling to keep his Title….and being harassed by USA ‘officials’ ....when he would not go to the Viet Nam .....‘war

    ‘(if ever there was a hungarian dog fuk ...Viet Nam was it.conscription…no benefits for vets…and an unwinnable situation…lotsa corpses….and way too many cripples…for those who just served their country…...and the country was not appreciating the soldiers’ efforts nor sacrifice

    Ali chose Chuvalo…....Ali won…..but he was never the same….Chuvalo took the fight on two weeks notice….and punched chunks out of Ali….that night…....and did it again cupla yrs later.

  3. Michael Hegan 08:55am, 06/17/2013

    That aside…...THE BULL once again raises the bar…

    MAN this site has some great Articles ....written by very well informed authors…..and TED ‘THE BULL’ SARES…...is one of the big names.

    He was outstanding in ESB…..
    In Boxing.com…..he fits right in with great writers…who aren’t hyping…..anything but the sport of Boxing

    Thanks…..once again…Ted

  4. Michael Hegan 08:51am, 06/17/2013

    Hey Ted…...I’ve been puking in plain sight since I was sixteen yrs old…...when I’m on the festive side.

    I have never been to the HOF thing…..but if I did….and as bars never close in that part of the land…..I’d be right there with you…..puking in plain site….lol

    Like anything else….HOF thing cannot continue to raise the bar…...kinda like my six ex wives…

    aka bikermike

  5. the thresher 10:45am, 03/14/2013

    Whew!

  6. Mike Casey 10:31am, 03/14/2013

    Yes, I realize that, pal.  I was referring to the BBC documentary. They were doing just fine until they found an excuse for a trip through the Rocky saga. It was more than I could take!

  7. the thresher 10:27am, 03/14/2013

    “apart from the distinctly un-noir ‘Rocky’, which somehow crept into the mix.”

    Only in the posts. Not by me. I actually thought “Rocky” was atrocious.

  8. Mike Casey 10:20am, 03/14/2013

    Tremendous stuff, Ted. Film noir is one of my great loves. Very good documentary recently here in the UK on BBC Four on this very subject. Quite uncanny too that the choice of movies was pretty much as it is here, apart from the distinctly un-noir ‘Rocky’, which somehow crept into the mix. I can’t recall off hand whether it was ‘The Set-Up’ or ‘Body and Soul’ that had some of the most realistic fight scenes ever done. Good to see Robert Ryan getting some praise too. Robert looked tired and worldly even when he was young! Jeff Bridges said that acting alongside Ryan was a real education.

  9. Clarence George 02:05pm, 03/08/2013

    Very unfortunate that “Champion”, the film that made Kirk Douglas a star, still isn’t available.  But another boxing movie—starring James Cagney and also with Arthur Kennedy, a great character actor—is:  “City for Conquest”.

  10. Adeyinka 01:29pm, 03/08/2013

    Very nice article which I printed out to read when initially uploaded. I love the Noir genre and have a lot of them with ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘This Gun For Hire’ among my favourites. I’ve been unable to get a hold of ‘Champion’ - only listened to Kirk’s performance on Screen Directors’ Playhouse.

  11. the thresher 03:54pm, 02/22/2013

    peter, ok, it’s in

  12. peter 03:36pm, 02/22/2013

    Although this old b&w film doesn’t exactly fit the classical definition of “film noir”, we must sneak “Mighty Joe Young” in under the wire—especially since it stars Primo Carnera in an unforgettable cameo role. (Watch Carnera’s picture-perfect right-hand punch at the end.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiNJTi7nJ1g

  13. the thresher 10:25am, 02/21/2013

    ha ha

    Glad you agree with me on Cries and Whispers.

  14. Don from Prov 09:00am, 02/21/2013

    our father who is in nada, nada be your name—

    Go Ernest you dark nasty future suicide
    “Cries and Whispers” = great: don’t know the boxing films for most part

    Most admit not that big a fan of noir
    Sylvester Stallone is my idea of great acting   :)

  15. the thresher+ 11:32am, 02/19/2013

    Billy, it’s not for everybody, but Liv Ullman is as good as it gets.

  16. dollarbond 10:25am, 02/19/2013

    I get the On the Waterfront reference.  “I could’ve been a contender”.  Never heard of Cries and Whispers?

  17. the thresher 10:14am, 02/19/2013

    Cries and Whispers and On the Waterfront.

  18. dollarbond 08:28am, 02/19/2013

    Just curious but what was your all time movie favorite, Ted?

  19. the thresher 07:01am, 02/19/2013

    Thanks Pete. Don’t know who they are.

  20. pete 05:56pm, 02/18/2013

    Another great Ted Sarles article! In the “Requiem for a Heavyweight” clip, I only recognize Gus Lesnivich on the left. Who are the other fighters lined up at the bar?

  21. dollarbond 12:25pm, 02/18/2013

    A masterpiece!

  22. the thresher 10:04am, 02/18/2013

    Yes Pug, that is correct. 1946 was the date actually.

  23. pugknows 09:15am, 02/18/2013

    I believe the term Film Noir dates to the mid-forties and came from France. My personal favorite was “Sweet Smell of Success.”  “Laura” was pretty cool as well.

  24. the thresher 07:33pm, 02/17/2013

    Thank you.

  25. Clarence George 07:27pm, 02/17/2013

    I intend to, and I look forward to it.

  26. the thresher 07:22pm, 02/17/2013

    yes

    I remember WH like he did it yesterday. He left body parts all over the place.

    Clearly, you need to read my book “Shattered’ which details many serial killings and included a good deal of noir.

  27. Clarence George 07:09pm, 02/17/2013

    Isn’t “dangerous women” a redundancy?

    Given that you were in Chicago in the late ‘40s, you must be familiar with the William Heirens case.  He died last year.

  28. the thresher 07:00pm, 02/17/2013

    Nice post Norm, you summed it up well.

    I witnessed a lot of real life noir back in the late 40’s and through the 50’s growing up in Chicago. Lots of returning vets, boozy taverns, wet back-alleys, dark streets, and evil looking people, but not nearly enough dangerous women. They came later.

  29. Clarence George 06:36pm, 02/17/2013

    Superb movie, based on the doings of Peter Kuerten and Fritz Haarmann.

  30. the thresher 06:13pm, 02/17/2013

    BTW, I track film noir back to at least 1931 when the movie M was released. Peter Lorre starred in this chiller. It also was one of the first movies about a serial killer except they didn’t call them serial killers back then,

    Check it out, but make sure the kids are assleep and the doors are locked.

  31. the thresher 06:09pm, 02/17/2013

    Mike, that Hall of Fame trip has lost a lot of its luster. Too much bullshit goes on with everyone being so important. Makes me want to puke in plain site.

  32. the thresher 06:03pm, 02/17/2013

    raxman, Ken Bruen is one of the many Irish authors I meant.

  33. the thresher 06:00pm, 02/17/2013

    back in through a very circuitous route. don’t know how long I’ll be here

    thanks for your comments mates

  34. Clarence George 10:03am, 02/17/2013

    In other words, he’s too good for us.  All right, duly noted.

  35. pugknows 09:46am, 02/17/2013

    Ted the Bull has emailed me and said to post that there has been something wrong via trying to get on Boxing.com for the past 24 hours so he apologizes for not responding to any posts directed to him.

  36. Clarence George 04:36am, 02/17/2013

    They remade “Wages of Fear” in the ‘70s—“Sorcerer”—but it was nowhere near as good.  “Le Corbeau” is also top-notch.

    “Battle of Algiers” is indeed very good, as is the book on which it’s based.

    I wrote an article once on the fact that three of Lee J. Cobb’s thugs in “On the Waterfront” had been Joe Louis challengers—Tony Galento, Tami Mauriello, and Abe Simon.  And one of the guys here informed me that another heavyweight had also been in the film, Lee Oma, who played the bartender.

  37. Bob 07:29pm, 02/16/2013

    Wages of Fear is in my top 5 reel to reel.  Right up there with Battle of Algiers and On the Waterfront.

  38. raxman 04:41pm, 02/16/2013

    ted -  you mention the irish crime novels. have you got into that dude ken bruen? he’s a beautiful writer, has a great style - he gets positively compared to james ellroy but i think he has his own under written thing going on; and he is one dark mother fucker.

  39. raxman 04:37pm, 02/16/2013

    irish - i love the killing! one of the all time great cinematic pieces of acting from sterling hayden - as you say no over emoting; he understated the fuck out of that role!! and i love the sniper dude too - his reaction when told his target is to be a horse. fantastic.

  40. raxman 04:33pm, 02/16/2013

    clarence george - thank you! richard widmark 100% that was the film i meant and i’m not sure why i wrote kirk douglas when i meant widmark. i guess maybe i jumped the gun calling it post ww2 it really started during the war - huston’s the maltese falcon must’ve been about 1940 but key largo was latter as were the work of otto preminger and billy wilder and nicholas ray; those guys really hit their straps post war and all the great noir seems to be made around 40-55ish time period. it was those films that covered all elements that made noir, noir - femme fatales, ambivalent hero etc the earlier films with bogart and cagney didn’t really fit the full requirement - thats how i remember it anyway -  there are a couple of great essays by paul schrader from back when he was a film critic on film noir. i got into this stuff about 12years ago so my memory on it is a little fuzzy but i remember a book called the panorama of film noir - that was great.

  41. Mike Schmidt 02:04pm, 02/16/2013

    Body and Soul for me Ted but hell they where all great—I even liked Elvis in Kid Galahad—Champion, Requiem, The Harder They Fall, Champion—looking back at it now is interesting to note that Kirk had never really boxed at all—he was a stud collegiate wrestler and in fact if he had not got into the acting business probably would have left a big mark in the collegiate wrestling business—keep em coming Bull—whole lot of folks including yours truly really really appreciate all the great memories these articles trigger from one memory link to another—adios amigo and do get your arse up to the Hall of Fame these year- Rusty Anber should be making the trek.

  42. Tex Hassler 12:58pm, 02/16/2013

    The “Set Up” is one of my all time favorite movies of any kind. I have watched it a number of times and enjoyed every minute of it. We all know there is a “bad side” to boxing even though we do not like it. Well written article Mr. Sares.

  43. RonLipton 10:29am, 02/16/2013

    Terrific article Ted, a great read and well researched.  I remember them all and you brought back all the memories.  Well done!

  44. Dan Cuoco 10:27am, 02/16/2013

    Great article. The Set-Up and Champion are my two favorite films from that era.

  45. the thresher 10:15am, 02/16/2013

    typos-sorry but my eyes are acting up again. I’m going to check out “Killer’s Kiss” now.

  46. THE THRESHER 09:58am, 02/16/2013

    And I love Scandinavian Mystery noir as well as Irish stuff, not to mention the latest rage—country mystery noir (U.S.) such as Winterbone. Love that stuff and read it every night before bedtime. Maybe that’s why I’m crazy!!??

  47. the thresher 09:49am, 02/16/2013

    Gents, you are mighty kind with your posts and I really appreciate it. That said, I hope we can get into some exchanges on the various movies muck like Clarence has. I just love noir movies, books and even music.

    Charlie Haden, a double bassist, probably best known for his long association with saxophonist Ornette Coleman, did some great stuff in LA back in the day and he is still going strong.

    Check this out:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-jIdFx2tds

    And especially this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwvVhXItl1w

  48. Clarence George 09:40am, 02/16/2013

    I have.

  49. the thresher 09:38am, 02/16/2013

    Has anyone ever seen Wages of Fear besides me?

  50. Clarence George 09:34am, 02/16/2013

    Rather surprisingly, “Killer’s Kiss” is available on Netflix.

  51. Steve-O 07:21am, 02/16/2013

    Well done!  Shared the article at The Back Alley Noir.

  52. Bob 07:05am, 02/16/2013

    For the younger set who might not be familiar with Robert Wise. He directed two great boxing movies, The Set-Up and Somebody Up There Like Me, as well as such classics as The Sound of Music, Tribute to a Bad Man (James Cagney) and the Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen. Quite a body of work over many decades.

  53. Bob 07:00am, 02/16/2013

    What a GREAT piece. Two of my favorite subjects- boxing and film noir.  I took an elective film noir class in college which I loved, though I wish Ted had been the teacher. Great selection of titles, beautiful descriptive writing, just an amazing, unique, original and interesting piece. I’ve already watched all the movie trailers, looking forward to the movies later today.  By the way, “Killer’s Kiss” was an early Stanley Kubrick film. It plays at a New York art house about once a year and is very good.  My guess is it is too obscure to be on Netflix, which only seems to carry modern day rubbish filled with explosions and special effects.

  54. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo (aka) Gimpel 05:36am, 02/16/2013

    Ted Sares-Jeez! There you go raising the bar again! Sterling Hayden was born to work in this genre…The Killing…no over the top emoting…it wasn’t called for…and there was my pick as the greatest American actor of all time, Timothy Carey right in there with him….noir featured true ensemble acting…not the pseudo form employed on present day TV crime/drama offerings.

  55. Norm Marcus 05:33am, 02/16/2013

    A great look at some of my favorite films and how they relate to the 20s, 30s and 40s. You did some excellent research here Ted. You then put it all in a package that I couldn’t put down. Great writing here.
    Actually film noir wasn’t that hard to produce. The people that the characters were based on were just living those kind of lives. Their existence was film noir. Look at Dempsey, Ross, Schmeling etc. Every day of their lives was like a chapter from a Chandler novel. Poverty, crime, pressure—cook it up and you got ” Dead End” with Joel McCrae , Sylvia Syndney and Bogart!
    Great look back!

  56. Clarence George 03:31am, 02/16/2013

    By the way, is it just me, or does Hal Baylor (Robert Ryan’s opponent in “The Set-Up”) look like Saul Alvarez?

  57. Clarence George 02:21am, 02/16/2013

    John:  I haven’t seen “Fat City”, but I’ve read the book on which the movie is based.

    Raxman:  Yes, an early Kubrick film.  As for the pickpocket movie you mentioned, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of “Pickup on South Street”, with Richard Widmark (not Kirk Douglas) and Jean Peters.  There’s a great fight (not boxing) scene between Widmark and Richard Kiley.

    I would argue, though, that Film Noir predates the immediate post-WWII era, at least in some form and to some degree.

  58. raxman 10:34pm, 02/15/2013

    clarence george - i’ve seen killer kiss. i think it may even been directed by kubrick, his first? No maybe it was his second from memory it has the classic plot of the boxer who falls for the hoods dame - i have this image of a chase and fight scene amongst mannequins.
    ted the bull - finally the noir article. its amazing you haven’t written it earlier given you’ve mentioned films from the era before. i too have been a fan of noir. i love the history element as far as cinema goes - both its influence on the french new wave filmakers (did they actually dub it film noir - at the time weren’t they just considered crime films?) and the later american auteurs in turn influenced by the french. but what i find most interesting are the theories as to how this film making style came about:
    things like post world war 2 uncertainty, the realization that our leaders were no moral paradigms with their communist witch hunts (there is actually a really good fun noir with i think kirk douglas as a pick pocket that combines crime and the red menace) and the ever present atomic bomb threat. the end of WW2 lead to a cultural euphoria, a high that had to crash, as the can do spirit that got people thru the war soon gave way to a real sense of disenchantment, fear and existential angst; and film noir was born

  59. John Howard 09:32pm, 02/15/2013

    An entertaining piece, Ted. It made for a fun and insightful read. Not to get off the subject of boxing noir, but I wanted to mention John Huston’s “Fat City” (1972) which was one of my favorites.

  60. Clarence George 08:38pm, 02/15/2013

    We share an interest, in addition to boxing—true crime.  I came very close to entering law enforcement long ago, and no wonder—I’ve always been intrigued by unsolved murders and disappearances.  In fact, I once managed to combine my two areas of interest by writing an article on Freddie Mills as a suspect in the Jack the Stripper killings.  Not a whole lot of reason to think he was the killer, though.

  61. the thresher 08:22pm, 02/15/2013

    Hopefully. But it’s a hard genre to crack.

  62. pugknows 08:19pm, 02/15/2013

    Interestingly, your true crime book was a bit nourish.

  63. the thresher 08:13pm, 02/15/2013

    Thanks Clarence. Much appreciated.

  64. Clarence George 08:05pm, 02/15/2013

    Outstanding!  I’m filled with self-loathing that I didn’t think of this first, though I’m not at all sure I would have done it the justice you have.

    Completely agree with your picks, especially “The Set-Up”.  There’s another I haven’t yet seen called “Killer’s Kiss”.  Know it?

    A reading recommendation, if I may:  “The Blonde on the Street Corner” by David Goodis.  Not boxing-related, but about as noir as the River Styx.

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