Adapted from a Ring Lardner short story of the same title, Champion is a stark, realistic study of the boxing rackets and the degeneracy of a prizefighter.
Fight scenes, under Franz Planer’s camera, have realism and impact. Unrelenting pace is set by the opening sequence.
Cast, under Mark Robson’s tight direction, is fine. Kirk Douglas is the boxer and he makes the character live. Second honors go jointly to Arthur Kennedy, the fighter’s crippled brother, and Paul Stewart as the knowing manager.
Where the Lardner story made the boxer a no-good from the start, Foreman’s screenplay casts him as an appealing Joe in the earlier reels. Already stuck with a persecution complex because of his boyhood poverty, it doesn’t take long for him to become a real heel.
1949: Best Editing.
Nominations: Best Actor (Kirk Douglas), Supp. Actor (Arthur Kennedy), Screenplay, B&W Cinematography, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture