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The Harder They Fall (Apr-1956)

Director: Mark Robson

Writer: Philip Yordan

From novel: The Harder They Fall by Budd Schulberg

Music Composed by: Hugo Friedhofer

Producer: Philip Yordan

Keywords: Sports Drama, Film Noir, Boxing

A boxing promoter asks a sportswriter Eddie Willis to talk up a fresh-faced Argentinian import, Toro Moreno. But he quickly sees that Toro isn't up to a heavyweight championship fight, and Willis must battle with his conscience. Bogart's final film, and while he shows some signs of his illness in the film it is one of his finest.

NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Jack Albertson
16-Jun-1907 25-Nov-1981 The Man on Chico and the Man
Edward Andrews
9-Oct-1914 8-Mar-1985 Sixteen Candles
Max Baer
11-Feb-1909 21-Nov-1959 Beat Max Schmeling in 1933
Humphrey Bogart
25-Dec-1899 14-Jan-1957 Casablanca
Herbie Faye
2-Feb-1899 28-Jun-1980 Cpl. Fender on The Phil Silvers Show
Felice Orlandi
18-Sep-1925 21-May-2003 Italian-American character actor
Nehemiah Persoff
2-Aug-1919   The Harder They Fall
Rod Steiger
14-Apr-1925 9-Jul-2002 In The Heat of the Night
Jan Sterling
3-Apr-1921 26-Mar-2004 Ace in the Hole
Harold J. Stone
3-Mar-1911 18-Nov-2005 The Harder They Fall


Humphrey Bogart   ...   Eddie Willis
Rod Steiger   ...   Nick Benko
Jan Sterling   ...   Beth Willis
Mike Lane   ...   Toro Moreno
Max Baer   ...   Buddy Brannen
Jersey Joe Walcott   ...   George
Edward Andrews   ...   Jim Weyerhause
Harold J. Stone   ...   Art Leavitt
Carlos Montalban   ...   Luis Agrandi
Nehemiah Persoff   ...   Leo
Felice Orlandi   ...   Vince Fawcett
Herbie Faye   ...   Max
Rusty Lane   ...   Danny McKeogh
Jack Albertson   ...   Pop


Review by anonymous (posted on 14-May-2006)

This film is a fitting tribute to a great American film icon. In his previous film, the minor classic "The Desperate Hours", Bogart was clearly ill. In "The Harder They Fall", Bogie is in even worse shape, pale, shaky, pasty and puffy. He was dying of throat cancer and the insidious disease would claim his life nine months after the film was released. In the movie, Bogart plays a down on-his-luck sports writer who, due to unemployment, takes on a job as a publicity man for a Panamanian boxer named Toro Moreno. Moreno's management is cheating the poor slob by setting up one patsy after another who takes dive after dive on a whirlwind cross-country boxing tour. Thanks to Bogie's contacts in the media and his writing skill, the nation falls for the tale of the "giant from the Andes". Toro himself believes his own press until, in a championship fight, he gets beaten to a grotesque pulp. Pangs of conscience finally hit Bogie and he helps the fighter escape back to his home in South America and begins writing a tell-all expose on the dirty business of pro boxing. It is a wonderful, soul-searching performance by Bogie with Rod Steiger perfectly villanous as a crooked manager. As stated above, Bogart was dying and he was aware of it. This adds an additional level of pathos to the film as we see a clearly in-pain Bogie doing his best to right the wrongs that he has wrought. We know he'll take a turn for the better, but in the classic Bogart tradition, we also know he'll do it slowly and with a certain bewilderment. The pain in his eyes is as much from the cancer eating away at him as it is from the character's reluctant involvement in what he clearly knows is wrong. Mark Robson's direction is spare, but that's fitting. This film noir doesn't require anything fancy. The boxing sequences are adequate although former champion Max Baer is far too old to be actively fighting in the championship fight scene. The additon of Baer (who in real life was one of the great gentleman of his or any other era) and Jersey Joe Walcott in the movie lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings, not because they can be taken seriously as active fighters, but because, by their presence, they are acknowledging the basic premise of the film: the fight game is a dirty business. Walcott, as an actor, could have had an interesting career, but he is under utilized here in a valet role. Cinematographer Burnett Guffey does a credible job in lighting the film, giving us glipses into the nighttime world of work-a-day boxing. His lighting is so skillful that, even in the day scenes, we somehow feel the ominous hues of night always approaching. The supporting cast is nothing short of excellent across the board. Steiger, the under rated Neihmah Persoff, Jan Sterling... need we say more? This is a fitting farewell to an actor who turned film noir into movie magic. See this film and watch a pro bucking it up against all personal odds to get the story done, get the film in the can and get on with a life that was quickly running out of time.

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