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The Champ

The Champ(1931)


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According to various news items in Hollywood Reporter, some racetrack sequences of the picture were filmed at Caliente Racetrack in Baja California, Mexico; it was Jackie Cooper's first picture for M-G-M; and Vice-President Charles Curtis attended the picture's premiere at Graumann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. An uncredited newspaper article, dated December 8, 1931, contained in the AMPAS library file on the film, notes that Cooper was to place his footprints in cement at Graumann's in response to his popularity after The Champ. Another uncredited newspaper article, dated December 5, 1931, relates a story in which director King Vidor, feeling that Cooper "didn't seem to get into the spirit of the part," pretended to fire assistant director Red Golden because Cooper was fond of him. After Cooper burst into tears, the article continues, Vidor shot the scene he wanted, then rewarded him for being a good boy by re-hiring Golden. Cooper's autobiography makes no mention of this incident, but notes that as a child Cooper cared neither for Golden or co-star Wallace Beery.
       Vidor was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, losing to Frank Borzage for Fox's Bad Girl. The picture won two Academy Awards, one for Frances Marion for Best Original Story, and one for Best Actor for Wallace Beery, who tied with Fredric March for Paramount's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (see below). According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Beery received one less vote than March, but still received an Oscar because of a recently instituted AMPAS rule that anything within two votes would be considered "a tie." This was the first screen pairing of Beery and Cooper. After the success of The Champ, they co-starred in three additional M-G-M films, 1933's The Bowery, 1934's Treasure Island and 1935's O'Shaughnessy's Boy (see entries above and below).
       The Champ was reissued in 1938, and in November 1939 Beery recreated his performance for the Lux Radio Theatre program on NBC radio. Beery performed the role on a second Lux Radio Theatre on June 29, 1942, co-starring with Josephine Hutchinson. Two remakes were produced by M-G-M. The first, directed by Robert Z. Leonard in 1953 under the title The Clown, starred Red Skelton and Tim Considine, and changed the title character to a down-on-his luck comedian. The second remake, directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1979, starred Jon Voight and Rickey Schroeder, and retained many of the plot elements of the first film.