Budd Schulberg’s vehement novel about the fight racket is given a strong pictorial going-over in The Harder They Fall. It’s main-event stuff.
The vicious racket within, the promoters and managers who exploit the pugs, tank divers on the take, the pressagent who builds the hoax about the phoney ring sensation – they’re under scrutiny.
Story concerns a ruthless manager-gambler who imports a behemoth from South America, discovers he’s a pugilistic cream puff, but gives him the buildup via fixed fights across the country. Humphrey Bogart is the newspaper man who goes ethically awry when his paper folds. He’s glib and persuasive in promoting the boxer, and finally reveals his courage when he breaks with the racket.
Rod Steiger rates hefty mitting as the crooked dealer in ring flesh. Jersey Joe Walcott is surprisingly effective in acting the part of a warm-hearted trainer. Jan Sterling fits in well as Bogart’s wife; Mike Lane works well in striking a sympathetic chord as the musclebound captive of Steiger’s who’s too dumb to know his opponents are paid to fall.
1956: Nomination: Best B&W Cinematography