Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1949. Screen Plays. Story by Ring Lardner, Screenplay by Carl Foreman . Cinematography by Franz Planer. Produced by Stanley Kramer. Music by Dimitri Tiomkin. Production Design by Rudolph Sternad. Film Editing by Harry W. Gerstad. Academy Awards 1949. Golden Globe Awards 1949.
Nationally famous and undefeated, boxing champ Kirk Douglas is about to partake in a highly publicized fight that inspires a flashback to his humble beginnings. He and his brother Arthur Kennedy (the two of them named “Midge” and “Connie”) are thumbing their way across the United States to the west coast where they are expecting to work at a diner that they invested in. When it turns out that their partner has absconded with their dough, it means falling back on a quick-cash method they discovered en route, that of Douglas getting into a ring and taking some punches for a few dollars. He is forced into a shotgun marriage with the new diner owner’s daughter (Ruth Roman) before his star is on the ascendant and he has a morally ambivalent relationship with a shady blond (Marilyn Maxwell) before moving on to his agent’s wife (Lola Albright), all the while getting better and better at winning fights. It’s the film that made Douglas a star and it is instantly obvious why: he has all the moves that the role requires, from the physical prowess to the handsome, constantly unpredictable face that is both a harsh gaze and a soft smile at the same time. Kennedy lends excellent support, while director Mark Robson, also making a name for himself here, drapes the entire experience in smoky monochromes that give the whole thing an intense, gritty atmosphere.