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Whiplash

Whiplash(1948)

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Whiplash An artist becomes a boxer but... MORE > $17.99 Regularly $17.99 Buy Now

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  • Screwball Film Noir?

    • John Burleigh
    • 1/18/14

    The implausibilities in Whiplash rise to a level of inspired lunacy. That Alexis Smith's alcoholic doctor brother has operated on Zachary Scott, a former great boxer who is now crippled and married to Smith; that Scott uses the threat of a malpractice action based on the possibility that the brother botched the operation to blackmail Smith to stay married to him; that artist Dane Clark, who had a brief fling with Smith before she went back to Scott, also has a talent for boxing and becomes a boxer to spite Smith; that within a few months Scott trains Clark to become a contender for the middleweight crown; that Scott sends Clark into the ring knowing that Clark has a concussion from which he could be killed; that Smith's brother shoots Scott's bodyguard to get Clark to a hospital and so he can free his wife of Scott; that S.K. Sakall is running a small restaurant in a beach town north of San Francisco; well, one could go on. Was the story conference invaded by Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart and Carol Burnett? Is this a hitherto unrecognized genre of screwball film noir? Are there other specimens of this genre?A large part of the fun in Whiplash is the absurdity of Clark being both a painter and a boxer (with the nom de boxe of Mike Angelo). The artsy boxer goes back at least as far as Clifford Odets' Joe Bonaparte who must choose between boxing and the violin. The sensitive Prewitt in From Here to Eternity is another prime example, both a champion boxer and a fine trumpet player. This conceit might have seemed more plausible back in the day, when boxing was something a young man might do and more widely popular. One reads of various actors (e.g., Robert Ryan, Jack Warden, Liam Neeson, Victor McLaglen, Bob Hope) who were boxers at one time. I doubt that there were too many real-life Joe Bonapartes or Mike Angelos, however.

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