A good picture, almost entirely by virtue of an inspired performance by a boy, Jackie Cooper. There is none of the usual hammy quality of the average child actor in this kid.
What also makes The Champ a good talker is a studied, understanding adult piece of work by the costar, Wallace Beery, who had to step to keep up with Jackie, and a Frances Marion original story that isn’t bad for a boxing story.
Beery plays a broken down ex-heavyweight champ. He’s anchored in Tiajuana with his kid and a couple of training camp leeches, and training for a comeback between stews. When not stewing he’s gambling and the comeback always seems more distant. He wins enough to buy the kid a race horse. Then he loses the horse in a crap game.
In the attempts of the Champ’s former wife and the boy’s mother to regain her son there is some menace, though Irene Rich as the mother and Hale Hamilton as her second husband are painted lily white by the script.
1931/32: Best Actor (Wallace Beery), Original Story.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director