Review: ‘The Champ’

Walter Newman's script adroitly updates Frances Marion's original scenario, placing down-and-out boxer Jon Voight as a horse handler in Florida, accompanied by sprig Ricky Schroder. An inveterate gambler and drinker, Voight doesn't hit the comeback trail until ex-wife Faye Dunaway, now a society matron, reappears to threaten his and Schroder's buddy-buddy relationship.

Walter Newman’s script adroitly updates Frances Marion’s original scenario, placing down-and-out boxer Jon Voight as a horse handler in Florida, accompanied by sprig Ricky Schroder. An inveterate gambler and drinker, Voight doesn’t hit the comeback trail until ex-wife Faye Dunaway, now a society matron, reappears to threaten his and Schroder’s buddy-buddy relationship.

Even those unfamiliar with the 1931 pic will feel resonances in the current Champ and in this edition Schroder projects a comparable emotional range and depth.

Most debatable, and in some respects unsettling, aspects of the update concern the Voight-Dunaway characters and relationships.

But Voight, under Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, has adopted an accent and outlook that seems at odds with the setting, and seriously weakens the credibility of a relationship between him and the elegant Dunaway.

1979: Nomination: Best Original Score

The Champ

Production

United Artists/M-G-M. Director Franco Zeffirelli; Producer Dyson Lovell; Screenplay Walter Newman; Camera Fred J. Koenekamp; Editor Michael J. Sheridan; Music Dave Grusin;; Art Director Theoni V. Aldredge

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1979. Running time: 121 MIN.

With

Jon Voight Faye Dunaway Ricky Schroder Jack Warden Strother Martin Joan Blondell
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