One-time heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer made the first of many film appearances in THE PRIZEFIGHTER AND THE LADY, in which he stars as Steve Morgan, a fighter who falls for Belle, a nightclub thrush played by Myrna Loy. The catch is, she's already the girl friend of gangster Willie
Ryan (Otto Kruger); however, he's willing to let her go on the condition that Steve marry her, which the fighter does, though he is unable to keep from chasing other women. After giving Steve chance after chance to redeem himself, Belle finally goes back to Willie, but when the fighter seems about
to hit the canvas for good during his battle with then-current heavyweight champion of the world Primo Carnera (playing himself), Belle is ringside and gives her husband just the encouraging look he needs to pull himself up by his bootstraps and...draw with the champ.
The script originally called for Morgan to win the fight, but Carnera (who was the inspiration for the Budd Schulberg novel on which THE HARDER THEY FALL is based) refused to take a cinematic dive and agreed to appear only after the outcome of the fight was altered and he was promised extra money.
Life's imitation of art wasn't so kind to Carnera, however, as Baer knocked him out in the 11th round of their very real heavyweight title bout on June 14, 1934. Baer's acting career, on the other hand, lasted much longer then his tenure as the champ, which ended with his title defense against
James J. Braddock one year later. His fine performance in this film (including some song-and-dance work) brought him many subsequent roles in such films as THE NAVY COMES THROUGH (1943); Abbott and Costello's AFRICA SCREAMS (1949); THE HARDER THEY FALL (1956); and UTAH BLAINE (1957). Not only does
THE PRIZEFIGHTER AND THE LADY include some extraordinarily convincing ring action, it also offers the presence of some other legendary heavyweights, including "The Manassa Mauler," Jack Dempsey, and former world champs Jim Jeffries and Jess Willard. The screenplay earned an Oscar nomination, but
lost to ONE WAY PASSAGE.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: One-time heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer made the first of many film appearances in THE PRIZEFIGHTER AND THE LADY, in which he stars as Steve Morgan, a fighter who falls for Belle, a nightclub thrush played by Myrna Loy. The catch is, she's already th… (more)