The Champ (1931) starring Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper
The Champ – the original father-son tale remains one of the all-time great tearjerkers. Wallace Beery plays the washed-up prizefighter making a ring comeback to provide for his son.
Editorial review of The Champ courtesy of Amazon.com
Although this flick is essentially sheer hokum, THE CHAMP was made with such superb professionalism in all departments that it achieved record business in depression – stricken 1931; it also gave Wallace Beery and screenwriter Frances Marion Academy Awards. It was M-G-M’s biggest smash hit of the year. This third ideal role Marion wrote for Beery was that of a broken-down boxer who made a comeback for the sake of his idolising son, Jackie Cooper. The nine-year-old graduate from OUR GANG got even praise from the critics – and audible sobbing from audiences! The great director, King Vidor, extracted genuine pathos from both stars and there is also good work from the likes of Roscoe Ates, Irene Rich and Hale Hamilton.
- This film ranked second as best picture in the 1932 Film Daily poll of national critics. It was beaten by Grand Hotel.
- Frances Marion wrote the title role specifically for Wallace Beery.
- The Champ was the fifth most popular movie at the U.S. box office for 1932.
- Wallace Beery was violently jealous of the child stars he often had to work with. After Jackie Cooper nearly stole The Champ from him, Beery had a clause added to his MGM contract. It stipulated that no juvenile performer would be allowed a close-up in his films.
- Despite the melodramatic script, King Vidor eagerly took on the film. It emphasized the traditional family values and strong belief in hope-qualities he felt were essential to a good motion picture.
- The film did fine at its first preview until the last reel. As originally written, Champ loses his comeback boxing match, then dies as his son weeps. After going along with the sentimental story until that moment, audiences felt cheated by the downbeat ending. As a result, production chief Irving Thalberg ordered the final scene reshot so that Champ won the match. At the next preview, the audience cheered at the end.