Body and Soul (1947)

103-104 mins | Film noir | 22 August 1947

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Burning Journey. According to the HR review, the picture was based on an original story by Barney Ross, which star John Garfield had purchased in 1945. The reviewer commented that Ross's story was "practically thrown out the window." Ross's contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. [For information on the 1957, Andre DeToth-directed film Monkey on My Back, which was based on Ross's life, please consult the entry below.]
       Although some modern sources identify Garfield's character, "Charley Davis," as Jewish, in the film his character is never identified as such. The neighborhood in which Charley and his mother "Anna Davis" live is multi-ethnic, but at one point in the film, the grocer says that while Nazis are "killing Jews in Europe," the neighborhood is betting on Charley, of whom they are proud.
       Body and Soul marked Garfield's first independent picture, and according to modern sources, he was greatly involved in all aspects of the production. Contemporary news items in HR add the following information about the production: Professional boxers Mickey Walker, Benny Leonard and Jack Dempsey were sought for roles, and actors Caryl Lincoln, Ethelreda Leopold, Forbes Murray and Al Eben were cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Frank Gaskin Fields was hired to write two songs and background music for the film, but his contribution to the final film also has not been confirmed. Three film crews were sent to fight arenas in twenty-six cities around the country to shoot boxing footage for the picture.
       Cinematographer ...

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The working title of this film was The Burning Journey. According to the HR review, the picture was based on an original story by Barney Ross, which star John Garfield had purchased in 1945. The reviewer commented that Ross's story was "practically thrown out the window." Ross's contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. [For information on the 1957, Andre DeToth-directed film Monkey on My Back, which was based on Ross's life, please consult the entry below.]
       Although some modern sources identify Garfield's character, "Charley Davis," as Jewish, in the film his character is never identified as such. The neighborhood in which Charley and his mother "Anna Davis" live is multi-ethnic, but at one point in the film, the grocer says that while Nazis are "killing Jews in Europe," the neighborhood is betting on Charley, of whom they are proud.
       Body and Soul marked Garfield's first independent picture, and according to modern sources, he was greatly involved in all aspects of the production. Contemporary news items in HR add the following information about the production: Professional boxers Mickey Walker, Benny Leonard and Jack Dempsey were sought for roles, and actors Caryl Lincoln, Ethelreda Leopold, Forbes Murray and Al Eben were cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Frank Gaskin Fields was hired to write two songs and background music for the film, but his contribution to the final film also has not been confirmed. Three film crews were sent to fight arenas in twenty-six cities around the country to shoot boxing footage for the picture.
       Cinematographer James Wong Howe used eight cameras to film the fight sequences: three placed on cranes for bird's-eye shots of the ring, three mounted on dollies and two hand-held cameras to provide a newsreel effect. Some location filming was done in New York City. Modern sources add that Garfield took sparring lessions from boxer Mushy Callahan to prepare for his role and performed all his own fight scenes. Garfield was knocked out and injured during the filming of one of his fight scenes, according to modern sources.
       An early Dec 1946 HR news item noted that production on the film was held up for two weeks due to censorship problems. Information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that early drafts of the script were deemed "unacceptable" under the provisions of the Production Code due to, among other things, excessive violence and the inclusion of a suicide, which was later removed from the script. A letter contained in the PCA file, dated 4 Jan 1947, indicates that the Breen Office demanded an entire sequence in which a white boxer fights an African American boxer be cut from the script. The stated reason for the deletion was that the Production Code did "not permit any scenes showing the social intermingling of white and colored people or of a boxing contest between two people of these opposite colors."
       The film garnered much critical praise, with the boxing sequences receiving particular notice. The DV review commented that "seldom has the camera caught such exciting ring sequences," while the New Yorker reviewer proclaimed the fight scenes "marvellously realistic." The casting of African American actor Canada Lee, who had been a middleweight boxing champion in the 1930s, was also lauded. Reviewers noted the timeliness of the film's subject matter. In appraising the picture's earning potential, the Var review commented that the "widely-ballyhooed N.Y. State Boxing Commission probe of bribery last winter, gives 'Body' a strong box office chance." In Sep 1947, according to a HR article, Charles Johnston, president of the Boxing Managers' Guild, petitioned Enterprise Pictures, Inc. to withdraw the film from distribution, claiming that it was "slanderous" in its depiction of boxing managers, and that it characterized managers as "thieves, gangsters, fixers, contrivers [and] doublecrossers." According to the HR article, David L. Loew, president of Enterprise, refused to withdraw the film or make any changes to it.
       According to a 1953 DV article, Bank of America, a Roberts Productions creditor, assumed control of this and Roberts' next film, Force of Evil (see entry), after Roberts failed to repay outstanding loans. According to DV, Roberts borrowed $1,000,000 from Bank of America to make this film. In Oct 1947, shortly after the release of this film, Garfield was accused by California State Senator Jack Tenny of being a Communist sympathizer. Garfield later refused to supply the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) with a list of suspected Communists, and was subsequently blacklisted. Director Robert Rossen, actors Anne Revere and Canada Lee, and screenwriter Abraham Polonsky were also blacklisted in the 1950s for their political views. (For more information on the HUAC hearings, see the entry below for Crossfire).
       Francis Lyon and Robert Parrish received an Academy Award for Best Editing for their work on the picture. Garfield was nominated for Best Actor, and Polonsky was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Some modern critics describe Body and Soul as the quintessential boxing film. Garfield reprised his screen role in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast version of the story, which aired on 15 Nov 1948. In 1981, George Bowers directed Leon Isaac Kennedy, Jayne Kennedy and Muhammed Ali in Body and Soul, a Golan-Globus Productions film that was loosely based on Polonsky's screenplay.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Aug 1947
---
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1947
---
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1953
---
Film Daily
13 Aug 1947
p. 6
Hollywood Citizen-News
25 Feb 1953
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 1946
p. 30
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 1946
p. 20
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 1946
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 1946
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 1947
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 1947
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1947
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1947
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1947
p. 8
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1947
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1947
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 1947
p. 18
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 1947
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 1947
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 1947
p. 3, 4
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 1947
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1947
p. 1
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1947
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 1947
pp. 1-2
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 1947
p. 14
Independent Film Journal
1 Feb 1947
p. 46
Life
29 Sep 1947
pp. 141-42
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Aug 1947
p. 3781
New York Times
10 Nov 1947
p. 21
New Yorker
15 Nov 1947
---
Variety
13 Aug 1947
p. 15
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Bob Roberts
Prod
WRITER
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Supv ed
SET DECORATOR
Edward J. Boyle
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Montages dir
MAKEUP
Gustaf M. Norin
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec prod mgr
SOURCES
SONGS
"Body and Soul," music by John W. Green, lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Burning Journey
Release Date:
22 August 1947
Production Date:
9 Jan--late Mar 1947; late Apr 1947
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Roberts Productions, Inc.
22 August 1947
LP1279
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Wide Range System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
103-104
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12435
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In New York City, Charley Davis, the middleweight champion of the world, wakes up from a nightmare screaming the name "Ben," then visits his mother, telling her that Ben died that day. After his mother bitterly tells Charley to leave, Charley sees Peg Born, his ex-girl friend, and although he kisses her, she falls limp, weeping on her bed. Charley, who is scheduled to fight an important match the next day, enters a nightclub where singer Alice performs, and gets drunk. Charley's manager, Roberts, tells Charley he must go fifteen rounds and win the fight by a decision. Charley then recalls his early days as a boxer: After winning his first amateur bout, Charley meets Peg, a beautiful, free-spirited painter living in Greenwich Village, and they fall in love. Charley's father, who owns a candy store, is killed when a bomb is thrown into a nearby speakeasy. Although Charley's mother hopes he will get an education, he is determined to be a fighter, and Peg encourages him. Promoter Quinn arranges a series of bouts for Charley, which he wins. After a year on the road, Charley, who has become cocky and is driven by money, returns to a swank apartment in New York and affectionately greets Peg. Roberts, who runs the fighting racket in New York, decides to set up a fixed fight between Charley and the black "champ," Ben Chaplin, who is suffering from a blood clot in the brain. Roberts' scheme is to tell Ben that he and Charley will go fifteen rounds and that the bout will end in a decision, rather than a knockout. Charley is not told ...

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In New York City, Charley Davis, the middleweight champion of the world, wakes up from a nightmare screaming the name "Ben," then visits his mother, telling her that Ben died that day. After his mother bitterly tells Charley to leave, Charley sees Peg Born, his ex-girl friend, and although he kisses her, she falls limp, weeping on her bed. Charley, who is scheduled to fight an important match the next day, enters a nightclub where singer Alice performs, and gets drunk. Charley's manager, Roberts, tells Charley he must go fifteen rounds and win the fight by a decision. Charley then recalls his early days as a boxer: After winning his first amateur bout, Charley meets Peg, a beautiful, free-spirited painter living in Greenwich Village, and they fall in love. Charley's father, who owns a candy store, is killed when a bomb is thrown into a nearby speakeasy. Although Charley's mother hopes he will get an education, he is determined to be a fighter, and Peg encourages him. Promoter Quinn arranges a series of bouts for Charley, which he wins. After a year on the road, Charley, who has become cocky and is driven by money, returns to a swank apartment in New York and affectionately greets Peg. Roberts, who runs the fighting racket in New York, decides to set up a fixed fight between Charley and the black "champ," Ben Chaplin, who is suffering from a blood clot in the brain. Roberts' scheme is to tell Ben that he and Charley will go fifteen rounds and that the bout will end in a decision, rather than a knockout. Charley is not told that Ben is ill, and Roberts cruelly says that the audience loves a killing. Later, Roberts goes to see Charley at his apartment, where Mrs. Davis is waiting for the boxer with Quinn and his girl friend, Alice. When Charley shows up with Peg, she is wearing a new dress and mink coat, having spent the afternoon drinking champagne. Although Charley's manager, Shorty Polaski, warns Peg to marry Charley immediately before he becomes a pawn of the mob, Roberts offers to help Charley win the championship and make him a wealthy man if he gives Roberts fifty percent of his take, fires Shorty, and postpones marriage. Shorty is suspicious of Roberts' conniving ways, but Peg lovingly agrees to put off her wedding. The night of the fight, Charley beats Ben repeatedly in the head and wins the title. After the fight, Ben's manager, Arnold, whom Roberts had double-crossed, protests to Roberts that Ben will undoubtedly die, but Roberts merely comments that "everybody dies." Later, as Peg and Charley celebrate in a bar with Roberts, Shorty tells Charley that he did not win fair, but foul, and that Roberts is the only one who won the fight. When Shorty then quits in disgust, Roberts coldly informs him that he had been getting only a handout from Charley. Shorty exits the bar, and Peg runs after him, but one of Roberts' thugs beats him up, and Peg runs for Charley's help. Charley rescues Shorty, but dazed, Shorty walks into an oncoming car and is killed. Peg then gives Charley an ultimatum: stop boxing or lose her. Charley breaks his engagement with Peg and wins a series of fights, becoming both richer and more careless. He begins dating Alice and buying her expensive gifts, then gambles away the rest of his winnings. Ben recovers, and Charley makes him his trainer. After years of holding the title, Charley is set to fight newcomer Jackie Marlowe, in a fixed fight: fifteen rounds and a decision. Jackie will win, and Charley will get $60,000, money he will use to bet against himself in the match. Alice, meanwhile, is hoping to share in Charley's fortune. Charley, however, visits Peg and, telling her he is about to fight his last fight, asks her to marry him. While Charley sleeps, Peg deposits his $60,000 in her bank account, unaware that he needs it to bet on the fight. At his mother's apartment, a grocer tells Charley that while the Nazis are killing Jews in Europe, Charley's old neighborhood is proudly placing money on Charley, whom they look up to with pride. Charley bitterly tells his mother and Peg that the fight is fixed, then demands his money back from Peg, accusing her of loving him for his money like everybody else. Hurt and enraged, Peg slaps Charley and leaves. While Ben trains Charley, he tries to convince him not to throw the fight. Roberts overhears and fires Ben, but Ben resists Roberts' orders and, in a frenzy of rage, pummels the air and falls dead. During the big match, after several rounds in which neither Charley nor Jackie are displaying any effort to fight, Jackie starts beating on Charley, and he realizes he has been set up by Roberts, just as Ben was. Charley fights back and wins the bout with a knockout. As he exits the ring, Roberts tries to warn Charley he will not get away with double-crossing him, but Charley says, "What are you gonna do, kill me? Everybody dies." Peg then rushes into his arms.

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

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