The Champ (1931)

85 mins | Melodrama | 21 November 1931

Director:

King Vidor

Writer:

Frances Marion

Producer:

Harry Rapf

Cinematographer:

Gordon Avil

Editor:

Hugh Wynn

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

According to various news items in HR , some racetrack sequences of the picture were filmed at Caliente Racetrack in Baja California, Mexico; it was Jackie Cooper's first picture for M-G-M; and Vice-President Charles Curtis attended the picture's premiere at Graumann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. An uncredited newspaper article, dated 8 Dec 1931, contained in the AMPAS library file on the film, notes that Cooper was to place his footprints in cement at Graumann's in response to his popularity after The Champ . Another uncredited newspaper article, dated 5 Dec 1931, relates a story in which director King Vidor, feeling that Cooper "didn't seem to get into the spirit of the part," pretended to fire assistant director Red Golden because Cooper was fond of him. After Cooper burst into tears, the article continues, Vidor shot the scene he wanted, then rewarded him for being a good boy by re-hiring Golden. Cooper's autobiography makes no mention of this incident, but notes that as a child Cooper cared neither for Golden or co-star Wallace Beery.
       Vidor was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, losing to Frank Borzage for Fox's Bad Girl (see above). The picture won two Academy Awards, one for Frances Marion for Best Original Story, and one for Best Actor for Wallace Beery, who tied with Fredric March for Paramount's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (see below). According to a HR news item, Beery received one less vote than March, but still received an Oscar because of a recently instituted AMPAS rule that anything within two votes would be considered "a tie." This was ... More Less

According to various news items in HR , some racetrack sequences of the picture were filmed at Caliente Racetrack in Baja California, Mexico; it was Jackie Cooper's first picture for M-G-M; and Vice-President Charles Curtis attended the picture's premiere at Graumann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. An uncredited newspaper article, dated 8 Dec 1931, contained in the AMPAS library file on the film, notes that Cooper was to place his footprints in cement at Graumann's in response to his popularity after The Champ . Another uncredited newspaper article, dated 5 Dec 1931, relates a story in which director King Vidor, feeling that Cooper "didn't seem to get into the spirit of the part," pretended to fire assistant director Red Golden because Cooper was fond of him. After Cooper burst into tears, the article continues, Vidor shot the scene he wanted, then rewarded him for being a good boy by re-hiring Golden. Cooper's autobiography makes no mention of this incident, but notes that as a child Cooper cared neither for Golden or co-star Wallace Beery.
       Vidor was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, losing to Frank Borzage for Fox's Bad Girl (see above). The picture won two Academy Awards, one for Frances Marion for Best Original Story, and one for Best Actor for Wallace Beery, who tied with Fredric March for Paramount's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (see below). According to a HR news item, Beery received one less vote than March, but still received an Oscar because of a recently instituted AMPAS rule that anything within two votes would be considered "a tie." This was the first screen pairing of Beery and Cooper. After the success of The Champ , they co-starred in three additional M-G-M films, 1933's The Bowery , 1934's Treasure Island and 1935's O'Shaughnessy's Boy (see entries above and below).
       The Champ was reissued in 1938, and in Nov 1939 Beery recreated his performance for the Lux Radio Theatre program on NBC radio. Beery performed the role on a second Lux Radio Theatre on 29 Jun 1942, co-starring with Josephine Hutchinson. Two remakes were produced by M-G-M. The first, directed by Robert Z. Leonard in 1953 under the title The Clown , starred Red Skelton and Tim Considine, and changed the title character to a down-on-his luck comedian. The second remake, directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1979, starred Jon Voight and Rickey Schroeder, and retained many of the plot elements of the first film. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
3 Oct 31
p. 35.
Film Daily
15 Nov 31
p. 10.
Fortune
1 Dec 32
p. 52.
HF
3 Oct 31
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 33
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 31
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 31
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 31
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 31
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 32
p. 2.
International Photographer
Dec 31
p. 28.
Motion Picture Herald
17 Oct 31
p. 38
Motion Picture Herald
4 Jun 38
p. 50, 55-66.
New York Times
10 Nov 31
p. 29.
Variety
17 Nov 31
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A King Vidor Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
Dial cont
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
2d cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SOUND
Rec dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting dir
Still photog
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 November 1931
Premiere Information:
World premiere: Hollywood, 13 November 1931
Production Date:
late August-early October 1931
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
19 November 1931
Copyright Number:
LP2636
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Andy "Champ" Purcell, a former boxing champion, is idolized by his young son Dink, even though Andy's drinking and gambling have resulted in a childhood of cheap Tijuana hotels and pool halls for Dink. Because he loves the boy more than anything in the world, Andy tries to make one last attempt at a comeback, but alienates fight promoters when he shows up for a meeting drunk. Dink doesn't scold Andy, however, even though he knows that Andy's promises to change are meaningless. Some time later, Andy wins a racehorse and gives him to Dink, who calls him "Little Champ." They go to Tijuana to race the horse, and at the track, Dink meets Linda Carleton, a kind horse owner, and her wealthy husband Tony. When Tony runs into Andy at the track, he realizes that Dink is the child that Linda gave up when she and Andy were divorced many years before. When Little Champ falls down and loses the race, Andy is so desperate for money that he accepts Tony's offer of two hundred dollars to let Linda visit with Dink in her hotel. The next day, Andy dresses Dink in a new suit and takes him to Linda's hotel and waits outside while they talk. When Dink matter of factly tells Linda about his life with Andy, she determines to take Dink away from his father, even though the courts awarded him custody. The next night, while Andy gambles, Tony approaches him, asking if Linda can have Dink for six months to send him to a good school and give him the right environment. When Andy refuses, Tony threatens ... +


Andy "Champ" Purcell, a former boxing champion, is idolized by his young son Dink, even though Andy's drinking and gambling have resulted in a childhood of cheap Tijuana hotels and pool halls for Dink. Because he loves the boy more than anything in the world, Andy tries to make one last attempt at a comeback, but alienates fight promoters when he shows up for a meeting drunk. Dink doesn't scold Andy, however, even though he knows that Andy's promises to change are meaningless. Some time later, Andy wins a racehorse and gives him to Dink, who calls him "Little Champ." They go to Tijuana to race the horse, and at the track, Dink meets Linda Carleton, a kind horse owner, and her wealthy husband Tony. When Tony runs into Andy at the track, he realizes that Dink is the child that Linda gave up when she and Andy were divorced many years before. When Little Champ falls down and loses the race, Andy is so desperate for money that he accepts Tony's offer of two hundred dollars to let Linda visit with Dink in her hotel. The next day, Andy dresses Dink in a new suit and takes him to Linda's hotel and waits outside while they talk. When Dink matter of factly tells Linda about his life with Andy, she determines to take Dink away from his father, even though the courts awarded him custody. The next night, while Andy gambles, Tony approaches him, asking if Linda can have Dink for six months to send him to a good school and give him the right environment. When Andy refuses, Tony threatens to take Dink away. Andy loses heavily that night and is forced to sell Little Champ, but promises the heartbroken Dink that they will get the horse back. With nowhere else to turn, Andy goes to Linda, who gives him the money, then begs him to let Dink decide if he wants to live with her or Andy. That night, instead of buying Little Champ back, Andy drunkenly tries to gamble "double or nothing" with the new owner and loses, then is arrested for starting a drunken brawl. Despondent over losing the horse and the money, Andy realizes that Dink would be better off with Linda and pretends that he doesn't want his son any longer. When Dink tearfully begs to stay, Andy hits him, after which Dink leaves and Andy repeatedly slams his fist against a wall as punishment for striking his son. Some time later, in Tony and Linda's private railroad car, the family travels toward New York. Still heartbroken over his separation from Andy, Dink decides to sneak out of the train when it reaches San Diego and goes back to Andy, who had been bailed out of jail by Tony. Andy is supposed to be in training for a new fight arranged by his friends Tim and Sponge, but is too despondent to train until Dink arrives. Now, hoping to be able to keep Dink for good, Andy trains vigorously and gives up drinking and gambling. His age and physical condition are against him, though, and Dink is worried that Andy will be hurt by the much-younger Mexican opponent. On the night of the fight, Tony goes to see Andy and assures him that he and Linda will not try to take Dink away again. Tony offers to help and tries to talk Andy out of the risky fight, but Andy insists that he will win and be able to care for Dink properly. During the brutal fight, when Andy is saved by the bell on a nine count, Dink, Tim and Sponge try to get him to throw in the towel, but Andy insists on one more round. Though exhausted, Andy comes back and wins the fight. After leaving the ring, however, Andy has a heart attack and dies in his dressing room. As Dink hysterically calls for "Champ," Linda arrives and comforts him as she carries him away in her arms. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.