I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Body and Soul (1947)

The film opens with Charlie Davis (John Garfield) waking up from a feverish sleep, crying out the name "Ben!" He gets in his car and heads towards the city. Several men in the house observe this, and one of them says, "What is the champ doing? He's got a fight tomorrow night!" His trainer, Quinn, looks as if he knows what's up and says he'll go get him.

Later, Charlie rests in his dressing room before a major title fight, moaning about how everything "has gone down the drain." The film then goes into flashback mode. We learn that Charlie was a good amateur boxer. During an appearance at a fundraiser for an alderman, Charlie meets Peg, a woman who will come to mean a great deal to him. She is studying to be an painter. Peg appears to be way out of Charlie's league because she is sophisticated, a world traveler, and educated. He tells her he likes her because she is different, and it is obvious that she likes something in his rough and tumble style.

Charlie's manager and friend, Shorty, sets up a meeting with big time trainer Quinn (William Conrad) who initially turns Charlie down. Charlie's mom is not happy that her son pursues boxing, and Charlie snaps that he doesn't want to be like his dad, scraping by in his candy store. Dad secretly gives Charlies money to buy boxing equipment, something he will need in order to work with Quinn. Moments later, gangsters throw a bomb at the speakeasy next door, which also damages the candy store. Charlie's dad dies, and the family falls on hard times. His mom finally has to resort to applying for charity, or what we would call welfare today. Charlie won't hear of it, and tells Shorty to make a deal with Quinn. He wants money and and he wants it fast.

It isn't long before Charlie is winning fights and living the good life. He gets a shot at a championship title and there enters Roberts, a shady promoter whom Charlie has to go through to get the fight. Shorty and Peg smell a rat, but Charlie plows forward. Unbeknowest to Charlie, his opponent, Ben (Canada Lee) should have never taken the fight. Ben has a blood clot in his brain due an earlier boxing injury, but Roberts promises Ben that it'll be an easy fight. Once the fight starts, Ben realizes too late that Roberts lied to him. Ben has to be rushed to the hospital, and Charlie is mortified. During the party celebrating Charlie's win, Shorty confronts Roberts about his practices then walks off. One of Roberts' thugs beats Shorty down outside the restaurant, and Charlie comes to his rescue. Shorty admonishes Charlie for dealing with Roberts and stalks away, right into the path of an oncoming car. After Shorty's demise, Peg tells Charlie she can't marry him as long as all he is focused on is the money.

Charlie continues to win bouts, while continuing to justify continuing dealing with both Quinn and Roberts. There comes a point when Charlie has to make a decision whether to keep dirtying his hands with his greed or stand up and do what he knows is right.

This is one of the best boxing movies ever made, and the fights are very realistic. It was said that when the film was first released, theater audiences would yell and scream during the fight scenes as if they were actually sitting ringside. Garfield, who like his character in the film, was raised poor and Jewish, is extremely believable as a boxer. William Conrad would go on to narrate episodes of "The Bullwinkle Show" and star in his own TV show, the 1970s detective drama "Cannon". Canada Lee was a childhood friend of politician Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and had actually been a boxer.


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