The Champ (1931)

KING VIDOR

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

USA, 1931.  .  Story by , dialogue continuity by , additional dialogue by .   Cinematography by .  Produced by King Vidor.  Production Design by .  Film Editing by .  Academy Awards 1931/1932.

Wallace Beery plays a washed-up professional boxer who was once a champion but is now forgotten. Attempting to make a comeback, he ends up drowning his sorrows at the local bar instead and ruins any chance of redemption, which is not helped by a gambling habit that keeps his finances at a perpetual low. Despite all this, his young son (Jackie Cooper) is still crazy about him, and no matter how many disappointments the little tyke suffers he is constantly buoyed by personal optimism that his dad will eventually make good. In comes Cooper’s mother, a woman who years before left husband and son and married a rich tycoon and now wants her son back. Beery at first refuses, but then realizes that she can give the kid a much better life than he can. Before it can happen, though, he has to fight one more good fight in the ring so that they can all live happily ever after. This flagrant tearjerker, sort of a male Stella Dallas, is kept more on the realistic side by King Vidor’s unsentimental direction, with Beery giving an admirable performance while Cooper is simply astounding. The kid’s natural instincts and wry dialogue delivery beat the hell out of his ability to cry buckets on command (his most famous trait) and put him at the very top of the child-acting field.

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