Humphrey Bogart (The Columbia Collection), John Garfield and boxing dramas

Turner Classic Movies and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment present Humphrey Bogart The Columbia Pictures Collection.

This five-disc set includes LOVE AFFAIR (1932), in which the studio was testing his potential as a leading man, to the postwar melodrama TOKYO JOE (1949) to the hard-hitting social drama, KNOCK ON ANY DOOR (1949), SIROCCO (1951), an exotic espionage thriller in the tradition of Casablanca, and THE HARDER THEY FALL (1956), a boxing racket expose that received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, are also highlights.

Humphrey Bogart in his last role as Eddie Willis in "The Harder They Fall" (1956), a boxing drama directed by Mark Robson

Pairing Bogart with such celebrated directors as Nicholas Ray and Curtis Bernhardt as well as acclaimed actors like Sessue Hayakawa, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger, this collection reveals yet another side to the actor whose screen persona became forever identified with the tough guys, loners and anti-heroes he played. Source:

John Garfield got his big film break in 1939, when the Warner Brothers Studio, the first great Hollywood studio of action and gangster films, made him one of the replacements for the company’s original stars in this genre, such as the famous James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Edward. G. Robinson, who had moved on to other diverse roles.

Ann Sheridan and John Garfield in "They Made Me a Criminal" (1939) directed by Busby Berkeley

Career takeoff: John Garfield’s crime films for Warner’s, like ‘THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL’ and ‘DUST BE MY DESTINY’ of 1939, ‘CASTLE ON THE HUDSON’ of 1940, and ‘OUT OF THE FOG’ of 1941, carry on the exposure of causes and motivations behind waywardness, from a gripping climactic moral perspective.

John Garfield and Ida Lupino in "Out of The Fog" (1941) directed by Anatole Litvak

Garfield admired Franklin D. Roosevelt, responsible of introducing America’s socialistic period, from 1933 to 1945, whose great liberal achievements were curtailed and reversed following the conservative post-war Truman presidency.

Garfield made a handful of classic films about World War II, such as ‘AIR FORCE’ of 1943, directed by Howard Hawks, and scripted by William Faulkner; ‘DESTINATION TOKYO’ of 1944 and 'PRIDE OF THE MARINES’ of 1945 directed by Delmer Daves.

Lana Turner and John Garfield in noir "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946) directed by Tay Garnett

"The story of the drifter who comes to town, causes trouble then leaves has been told a thousand times, but never with this much class and passion. Frank Chambers (John Garfield) is the layabout, with itchy feet, who chances upon a small gas-station/diner run by Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway).

With brilliant manipulation the DA turns the pair against each other, leaving Cora with an additional charge of attempted murder against Frank. Her attorney manages to get her off (to win a $100 bet with Sackett) but the stage is set for a showdown between Cora and Frank. The extended breakdown in their relationship is stunningly portrayed, right to the fitting finale.

The crux of this movie is the doomed romance between Cora and Frank; believe that and everything falls into place. Well, the chemistry between Turner and Garfield is just perfect: relentless, overpowering and unforgiving. All of the performances ring true as the lovers plunge headlong towards their destiny, when everything could be saved if only one of them could leave.

It's hard to feel sympathy for Frank though since he intentionally aimed to seduce Cora, who is as guilty in their affair. Equally outstanding is the atmosphere of tension which pervades the script, rising to several well-timed climaxes. This truly is an outstanding film". Source:

Barbara Stanwyck and William Holden as Lorna and Joe Bonaparte in boxing drama "Golden Boy" (1939) directed by Rouben Mamoulian

Joe Bonaparte’s epiphany after he kills Chocolate Drop in "Golden Boy" is a milestone in developing this theme. The death of his rival provokes the boxer to face his own vulnerability even at the moment of his triumph.

Another central contribution of "Golden Boy" is the clear articulation of the body and soul conflict in Bonaparte’s choice between boxing and the violin. Clifford Odets wrote the part of Joe Bonaparte with John Garfield in mind, but Harold Clurman, the director of the Group Theatre, passed over Garfield and cast Luther Adler as Joe in the original production. Finally, near the end of his life, Garfield played Joe Bonaparte in a 1952 Broadway revival of "Golden Boy".

"Body & Soul" had been planned on the basis of the life of the champion Jewish boxer and World War II combat hero Barney Ross. On July 11, 1946, the first draft of the screenplay 'The Burning Journey', was submitted to the Production Code Authority (PCA) for approval. In September, Barney Ross held a press conference announcing that he was a drug addict and enrolling himself in a rehabilitation program. Robert Parrish, the Academy Award winning editor of "Body and Soul", describes the scene in his memoir, with director Robert Rossen, arguing against canceling the production: “I say we go ahead. It doesn’t have to be about Barney Ross. Polonsky’s script can be about any bum who comes up the hard way. We’ll just change the title and change the ending. We’ll use the ending from Hemingway’s ‘Fifty Grand.’”

The final shooting script is dated January 13, 1947. So throughout the fall of 1946 and into the winter of 1947, changes were made in the screenplay. The Ross biography is dropped, but elements of his experidnce are still apparent, now meshed with the elements from "Golden Boy" and “Fifty Grand.” The residue of the Ross story is apparent in "Body and Soul": Ross’s father was murdered in 1923 during a holdup of his grocery store in Chicago’s West Side ghetto, leaving the family destitute. After his father’s death, the teenage Barney turned to boxing, in spite of his mother’s objections. By 1929 Ross had won the national Golden Gloves featherweight crown and became a professional.

Polonsky maintains in his hero the “animal faith that survives moral weakness and defeat”. Howe pushes his style to extremes with his flattened, over lit, jittery newsreel style for the famous boxing finale.

James Cagney as Jimmy Kane in "Winner Take All" (1932) directed by Roy Del Ruth

In the 1930's screen boxers (Kid Galahad, Joe Bonaparte, Danny Kenny, etc.) were frequently threatened by gangsters or compromised by their managers, but the protagonist boxer had never taken a dive. His attraction to the gangster was motivated by impulse or indiscretion, but he resisted dirty deals.

But in "Body & Soul", Charley Davis is morally compromised and the consequences of his wrongs haunt the entire story. The screen boxers who defined the post–World War II pugilist are no longer misguided innocents, but fallen souls whose awareness of their sins invests them with the doomed self-consciousness typical of film noir. Robert Sklar has noted that, “Polonsky, for one, hoped that the film would be understood not as an expose of prizefight corruption... but as an allegory of the actual and spiritual corruption of human values in the American capitalist system” (Sklar, 1992). So the competitive system, rather than simply the immoral behavior of individuals, is criticized.

As Michael Rogin observes, “Made at the apogee of Communist influence in the motion picture business, 'Body and Soul' was a creature of the Popular Front, the Communist/liberal alliance that joined reform politics to popular culture” (Rogin, 1996). 'Body and Soul' intensifies the elements of social criticism latent in the boxing film to produce one of the most politicized films in the boxing genre tradition. Howe is reported to have used eight cameras, three placed on cranes around the ring, three mounted on dollies, and two handheld cameras to provide a newsreel effect.

Dragged to his stool by his two corner men, Charley bleeds from his nose and mouth and just above his left eye. The blood signifies the boxer’s suffering, his penance for having agreed to take the dive. Now Charley sees that he was the victim in this conspiracy. He has reached his turning point. Once in his corner Charley understands the double cross and scowls at Quinn, declaring, “You sold me out, you rat... sold out just like Ben.” Charley has decided that he must win to regain his soul. With the second close-up of Charley’s eyes, the boxer mutters, “I’m gonna kill ’im”, as the bell sounds for the fourteenth round. -"Knockout: The Boxer and Boxing in American Cinema" (2011) by Leger Grindon