Body and Soul is a gripping tale about one of the most corrupt sports, both now and then: boxing. As we watch "the Champ" emerge from poverty, aching to hit the big time, we understand why he would make a Faustian bargain with the sleazy big-time boxing promoter. The Champ figures he'll be smart and shrewd enough to be the one pulling the strings, but of course he is deluded, and when the promoter tells him to lose a big fight, the Champ finally has to wrestle with his conscience. The big fight is the movie's spectacular climax.
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.