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The Prize Fighter

   

The Prize Fighter (1979), co-starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts

 The Prize Fighter is a very funny, very sweet comedy.  Set in depression-era America, Tim Conway stars as Bags Collins who has a perfect record as a boxer – twenty fights, twenty knockouts—and twenty losses.  His manager, Shakes, is the ‘brains’ of the team, played by Don Knotts.  However, his luck starts to change, and Bags starts to win against other ‘loser’ boxers and eventually gets a shot at the title in his weight category.  Unfortunately, this is when they find out that the fight has been rigged

A wonderful movie with the boxing scenes being truly great slapstick.  Don Knotts and Tim Conway effectively play their characters from The Apple Dumpling Gang here, transplanted to the 1930’s, and are a wonderful comedy team.  A very funny movie, which isn’t surprising since Tim Conway wrote it as well as co-starring in it.

Cast of characters

  • Tim Conway (The Carol Burnett Show) … Bags. The not-very-bright fighter. But, with a tender heart. He literally bonds with Timmy, and becomes a surrogate father to him. A very funny performance.
  • Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show, The Incredible Mr. Limpet) … Shake. Bags’ friend and trainer. He doesn’t realize that “Mr. Mike” is using them both. First, to make a lot of money when they inevitably lose the title fight, and to get Pop Morgan’s gym. He actually demonstrates his worth by teaching Timmy how to fight a bully.
  • David Wayne (The Andromeda Strain, Adams Rib) … Pop Morgan. The older man, raising the orphaned Timmy. All he owns is his gym. And he makes the mistake of betting it on the title fight. Against Mike.
  • Robin Clarke (Death Sentence 1968) … Mike. The gangster, using Bags & Shake to get ownership of Pop’s Gym. A rich, successful, vicious man. He slaps his moll Polly around, repeatedly.
  • Cisse Cameron (Billy Jack) … Polly. Mike’s moll. She’s unaware that Mike murdered her father …. And lied to her about it. When she finds out, she tries to warn Bags that the third round is where he’ll be hurt.
  • Mary Ellen O’NeillMama. Mike’s mother. She’s hilarious! Either insane, or she just doesn’t care what people think. And she delights in tormenting Bags.
  • Michael LaGuardia (Total Recall) … The Butcher. The current heavyweight champion, who’s very vain about his looks. Then, Bags and Shake break his face in the bathroom, in a funny slapstick routine. And they don’t even realize that they did it! But he wants revenge …
  • George NuttingTimmy. Pops’ grandson, whom he’s raising. He bonds with Bags as a surrogate father. And Shake teaches him how to stand up to a bully.
  • Irwin Keyes (The Flintstones) … Flower
  • John Myhers (1776) … Doyle

Comedy Highlights

  • Beating up the heavyweight champion in the bathroom of the Starlight. And, not even being aware that they did it!
  • Numerous parts of the training montage.
  • Tim Conway in the boxing ring.
  • The interplay between Tim Conway and Don Knotts.
  • The insane Momma, teasing and surprising them at every opportunity. Truly hilarious!

Trivia

  • The scene in which Don Knotts’ character, Shake, cracks five eggs into a glass on top of a refrigerator is a spoof of the egg cracking scene in Rocky. In Rocky (1976), Rocky Balboa cracks five eggs into a glass on top of a refrigerator. During the process, he is constantly sniffing and exhaling. In this scene, Don Knotts also constantly sniffs and exhales, but does so in a very exaggerated and comedic fashion.
  • Bags Collins’ boxing record before coming out of retirement was 0-20. All of his losses were by KO.

Updated June 19, 2022

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