Drama / Film Noir / Sports
Directed by Mark Robson
Cast: Kirk Douglas as Michael 'Midge' Kelly
Marilyn Maxwell as Grace Diamond
Arthur Kennedy as Connie Kelly
Paul Stewart as Tommy Haley
Ruth Roman as Emma Bryce
Lola Albright as Palmer Harris
Luis Van Rooten as Jerome 'Jerry' Harris
Harry Shannon as Lew Bryce
John Daheim as Johnny Dunne
Champion is a film noir film released in 1949 by United Artists, and directed by Mark Robson. The film earned an Academy Award for film editing, and Kirk Douglas was nominated for Best Actor and Arthur Kennedy for Best Supporting Actor.
Midge and Connie Kelly, brothers, are making their way west to claim ownership of a diner they have bought from a cousin. Midge takes a job selling refreshments at a boxing arena, and winds up in a boxing match where, although he loses the match, he impresses manager Tommy Haley. Haley tells Midge if he ever wants to enter the ring professionally to let him know.
Arriving in California, the brothers learn that they had been cheated by their cousin – the diner they thought they bought is owned by Lew Bryce. Down on their luck and desperate for money, the brothers take jobs working at the diner. Midge and Connie are both attracted to the owner’s daughter, Emma, and Midge casually seduces her and then is forced into marriage with her by her irate father.
Now out of work, and with Midge not interested in being married to Emma, the brothers pack Emma back East to live with their mother and Midge finally contacts Tommy Haley. Although Haley is now retired, he agrees to take Midge on as a fighter.
As Midge boxes his way to the championship, his greed and ambition cause him to hurt many people as he struggles to never feel poverty again.
Kirk Douglas is quoted as saying, about his role of Midge in Champion, “I didn’t think I was so tough until I did Champion; then I was a tough guy… Virtue is not photogenic, so I liked playing bad guys. But, whenever I played a bad guy, I tried to find something good in him, and that kept my contact with the audience”.
30-minute adaptations of the movie were broadcast on the radio on The Screen Guild Theater on October 13, 1949 with Kirk Douglas and Marilyn Maxwell, and on Screen Director's Playhouse on March 17, 1950 with Kirk Douglas reprising his film role.