After his father is killed, an accidental victim of a turf war involving New York gangland elements, Garfield turns to the world of professional boxing despite his mother Ann Revere's admonitions against it. His mind is made up after a government official shows up at their apartment to ask Revere questions concerning going on relief, or in today's parlance, welfare. Garfield finds the process dehumanizing, evicts the government worker, and enters the professional boxing realm, aided by the area's noted boxing manager, William Conrad.
Eventually Garfield hits the big time and wins the world championship, but sells his soul in a Faustian bargain to unscrupulous promoter Lloyd Gough. In the process his decent, highly ethical girlfriend Lillie Palmer drops him, saying she will not deal with him as long as the unsavory Gough guides his destiny. After that he takes up with opportunistic night club singer Hazel Brooks, who lives for luxury in the fast lane.
Gough hits his lowest point when matching Garfield with the talented and popular champion Canada Lee, whose manager beseeches him to quit due to brain damage. One more extra hard blow can do the champion in, he has been warned by doctors. Gough explains that Lee need not worry, and that he will tell Garfield that he should carry him and not land any hard blows.Read more ›
My two main complaints are that the Champ's girlfriend Peg (played by Lilli Palmer) is a stock character: the wholesome girl who tries to guide her boyfriend down the right path and waits like an angel, ready to forgive all, for her wayward boyfriend to return to her fold. Also, the ending is a cop-out. PLOT SPOILER TO FOLLOW. While it is inspiring to see the Champ refuse to throw the fight, we know that as a result the promoter probably will try to kill him, so the happy ending as the Champ and Peg walk off in each other's arms after the big fight is premature. The point of the film is that the Champ's reckless actions had gotten himself into a no-win situation: either he would throw the fight and lose his integrity or he would not throw the fight and would lose his life. The film's happy ending covers over that tragedy and dilutes the moral of the story.