The Champ


1h 26m 1931
The Champ

Brief Synopsis

A broken-down prizefighter battles to keep custody of his son.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Sports
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 21, 1931
Premiere Information
World premiere: Hollywood, 13 Nov 1931
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

Andy "Champ" Purcell, a former boxing champion, is idolized by his young son Dink, even though Andy's drinking and gambling have resulted in a childhood of cheap Tijuana hotels and pool halls for Dink. Because he loves the boy more than anything in the world, Andy tries to make one last attempt at a comeback, but alienates fight promoters when he shows up for a meeting drunk. Dink doesn't scold Andy, however, even though he knows that Andy's promises to change are meaningless. Some time later, Andy wins a racehorse and gives him to Dink, who calls him "Little Champ." They go to Tijuana to race the horse, and at the track, Dink meets Linda Carleton, a kind horse owner, and her wealthy husband Tony. When Tony runs into Andy at the track, he realizes that Dink is the child that Linda gave up when she and Andy were divorced many years before. When Little Champ falls down and loses the race, Andy is so desperate for money that he accepts Tony's offer of two hundred dollars to let Linda visit with Dink in her hotel. The next day, Andy dresses Dink in a new suit and takes him to Linda's hotel and waits outside while they talk. When Dink matter of factly tells Linda about his life with Andy, she determines to take Dink away from his father, even though the courts awarded him custody. The next night, while Andy gambles, Tony approaches him, asking if Linda can have Dink for six months to send him to a good school and give him the right environment. When Andy refuses, Tony threatens to take Dink away. Andy loses heavily that night and is forced to sell Little Champ, but promises the heartbroken Dink that they will get the horse back. With nowhere else to turn, Andy goes to Linda, who gives him the money, then begs him to let Dink decide if he wants to live with her or Andy. That night, instead of buying Little Champ back, Andy drunkenly tries to gamble "double or nothing" with the new owner and loses, then is arrested for starting a drunken brawl. Despondent over losing the horse and the money, Andy realizes that Dink would be better off with Linda and pretends that he doesn't want his son any longer. When Dink tearfully begs to stay, Andy hits him, after which Dink leaves and Andy repeatedly slams his fist against a wall as punishment for striking his son. Some time later, in Tony and Linda's private railroad car, the family travels toward New York. Still heartbroken over his separation from Andy, Dink decides to sneak out of the train when it reaches San Diego and goes back to Andy, who had been bailed out of jail by Tony. Andy is supposed to be in training for a new fight arranged by his friends Tim and Sponge, but is too despondent to train until Dink arrives. Now, hoping to be able to keep Dink for good, Andy trains vigorously and gives up drinking and gambling. His age and physical condition are against him, though, and Dink is worried that Andy will be hurt by the much-younger Mexican opponent. On the night of the fight, Tony goes to see Andy and assures him that he and Linda will not try to take Dink away again. Tony offers to help and tries to talk Andy out of the risky fight, but Andy insists that he will win and be able to care for Dink properly. During the brutal fight, when Andy is saved by the bell on a nine count, Dink, Tim and Sponge try to get him to throw in the towel, but Andy insists on one more round. Though exhausted, Andy comes back and wins the fight. After leaving the ring, however, Andy has a heart attack and dies in his dressing room. As Dink hysterically calls for "Champ," Linda arrives and comforts him as she carries him away in her arms.

Photo Collections

The Champ (1931) - Movie Poster
Here is an American movie poster from the original release of The Champ (1931), starring Wallace Berry and Jackie Cooper. This is a half sheet measuring 22" x 28".

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Sports
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 21, 1931
Premiere Information
World premiere: Hollywood, 13 Nov 1931
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Award Wins

Best Actor

1931
Wallace Beery

Best Original Story

1931

Award Nominations

Best Director

1931
King Vidor

Best Picture

1931

Articles

The Essentials-The Champ


SYNOPSIS

Former World Heavyweight Champion Andy "Champ" Purcell is reduced to gambling and racing horses in Tijuana because of his alcoholism. The only light in his life is his son, Dink, who keeps trying to get his father back on the wagon. At the track where his father races his only horse, Dink is spotted by Linda, a wealthy woman who realizes he is the son she left behind when she divorced the Champ. Although the Champ refuses to turn over his son to his ex-wife, his continued gambling and drinking leave him so destitute he can think of no other hope for the child, unless he can score one last fight to win back his place in the ring. CAST AND CREW

Producer-Director: King Vidor
Screenplay: Leonard Praskins, Wanda Tuchock
Based on a story by Frances Marion Cinematography: Gordon Avil
Editing: Hugh Wynn
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Cast: Wallace Beery (Champ), Jackie Cooper (Dink), Irene Rich (Linda), Roscoe Ates (Sponge), Edward Brophy (Tim), Hale Hamilton (Tony), Jesse Scott (Jonah), Marcia Mae Jones (Mary Lou)
BW-86 m.

OVERVIEW

The Champ is an early sound example of a popular silent sub-genre, the "waif" film, depicting the trials of an economically deprived young man or woman. Earlier examples include D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919), several of Mary Pickford's films and Charles Chaplin's The Kid (1921), the latter a clear inspiration for Frances Marion's screenplay. The genre would continue with some of the films of Shirley Temple and Margaret O'Brien.

With its depiction of an emotionally vulnerable leading man struggling to raise his son under strained economic circumstances, The Champ has been called an inverted women's film. As such, critics have discussed its treatment of masculinity in terms usually reserved for depictions of women.

With its focus on the adventures of a father and son, the film is in many ways a precursor of the buddy films that became popular in the late '60s and '70s. The deep emotional bond between the Champ and his son renders this a much deeper depiction of "bromance" than those later films.

Also ahead of its time is the depiction of Dink's multi-ethnic group of friends in Tijuana, particularly his close relationship with African-American child Jonah.

With its continuing emotional power, the film is often hailed as the definitive male weepie.

The Champ revived Wallace Beery's career and made him one of MGM's top stars. It also brought him his only Oscar® for Best Actor.

Jackie Cooper was the first of MGM's great child stars, though he was still under contract to Paramount while making The Champ. His move to MGM after completing the picture helped set into motion the studio's string of sentimental family pictures drawing on a roster of character actors and memorable juveniles to portray studio head Louis B. Mayer's dreams of American home life.

By Frank Miller
The Essentials-The Champ

The Essentials-The Champ

SYNOPSIS Former World Heavyweight Champion Andy "Champ" Purcell is reduced to gambling and racing horses in Tijuana because of his alcoholism. The only light in his life is his son, Dink, who keeps trying to get his father back on the wagon. At the track where his father races his only horse, Dink is spotted by Linda, a wealthy woman who realizes he is the son she left behind when she divorced the Champ. Although the Champ refuses to turn over his son to his ex-wife, his continued gambling and drinking leave him so destitute he can think of no other hope for the child, unless he can score one last fight to win back his place in the ring. CAST AND CREW Producer-Director: King Vidor Screenplay: Leonard Praskins, Wanda Tuchock Based on a story by Frances Marion Cinematography: Gordon Avil Editing: Hugh Wynn Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Cast: Wallace Beery (Champ), Jackie Cooper (Dink), Irene Rich (Linda), Roscoe Ates (Sponge), Edward Brophy (Tim), Hale Hamilton (Tony), Jesse Scott (Jonah), Marcia Mae Jones (Mary Lou) BW-86 m. OVERVIEW The Champ is an early sound example of a popular silent sub-genre, the "waif" film, depicting the trials of an economically deprived young man or woman. Earlier examples include D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919), several of Mary Pickford's films and Charles Chaplin's The Kid (1921), the latter a clear inspiration for Frances Marion's screenplay. The genre would continue with some of the films of Shirley Temple and Margaret O'Brien. With its depiction of an emotionally vulnerable leading man struggling to raise his son under strained economic circumstances, The Champ has been called an inverted women's film. As such, critics have discussed its treatment of masculinity in terms usually reserved for depictions of women. With its focus on the adventures of a father and son, the film is in many ways a precursor of the buddy films that became popular in the late '60s and '70s. The deep emotional bond between the Champ and his son renders this a much deeper depiction of "bromance" than those later films. Also ahead of its time is the depiction of Dink's multi-ethnic group of friends in Tijuana, particularly his close relationship with African-American child Jonah. With its continuing emotional power, the film is often hailed as the definitive male weepie. The Champ revived Wallace Beery's career and made him one of MGM's top stars. It also brought him his only Oscar® for Best Actor. Jackie Cooper was the first of MGM's great child stars, though he was still under contract to Paramount while making The Champ. His move to MGM after completing the picture helped set into motion the studio's string of sentimental family pictures drawing on a roster of character actors and memorable juveniles to portray studio head Louis B. Mayer's dreams of American home life. By Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101-The Champ


With The Champ in the can, MGM bought Jackie Cooper's contract from Paramount Pictures. He was the studio's first child star, to be followed by Freddie Bartholomew, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, and Dean Stockwell, among many others.

Six weeks after the film's premiere, Cooper put his foot and handprints in cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Beery had already been commemorated there along with Marie Dressler in conjunction with the premiere of Min and Bill (1930).

The Champ's popularity made Beery one of MGM's biggest stars of the early '30s, leading to roles in such classics as Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933) and Viva Villa! (1934).

After seeing how effortlessly Cooper stole scenes from him, Beery informed the press he would never work with the young actor again. Under the terms of his studio contract, however, he could not refuse assignments without going on suspension and forfeiting his salary. The two would reteam in 1933 for The Bowery and go on to make two other films together.<

The father-son relationship in The Champ inspired Yasujiro Ozu's classic Passing Fancy (1933), about a struggling widower whose son resents his father's interest in a young woman.

MGM reissued the film in 1938.

Beery reprised his role twice for the Lux Radio Theatre, first in 1939 and again in 1942.

MGM remade the film as The Clown in 1953, with Red Skelton as a faded comic raising his son (Tim Considine) by Jane Greer.

Stan and Jan Berenstain have credited the film as the inspiration for the relationship between Papa and Brother Bear in their best-selling series of books, The Berenstain Bears. The series debuted in 1962 with The Big Honey Hunt and has gone on to inspire 300 books along with numerous television shows, a stage show, a feature film and profitable toy lines.

In 1979, Franco Zeffirelli directed a big budget remake starring Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway, with Ricky Schroder making his film debut as their son.

By Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101-The Champ

With The Champ in the can, MGM bought Jackie Cooper's contract from Paramount Pictures. He was the studio's first child star, to be followed by Freddie Bartholomew, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, and Dean Stockwell, among many others. Six weeks after the film's premiere, Cooper put his foot and handprints in cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Beery had already been commemorated there along with Marie Dressler in conjunction with the premiere of Min and Bill (1930). The Champ's popularity made Beery one of MGM's biggest stars of the early '30s, leading to roles in such classics as Grand Hotel (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933) and Viva Villa! (1934). After seeing how effortlessly Cooper stole scenes from him, Beery informed the press he would never work with the young actor again. Under the terms of his studio contract, however, he could not refuse assignments without going on suspension and forfeiting his salary. The two would reteam in 1933 for The Bowery and go on to make two other films together.

Trivia-The Champ - Trivia & Fun Facts About THE CHAMP


Because The Champ was made before the repeal of Prohibition, Frances Marion set the story mostly in Tijuana. That prevented protests from reformers and censors, who might otherwise have objected to the title character's easy access to liquor.

Until the final scene, when "There's No Place Like Home" plays on the soundtrack, all of the music in the film comes from environmental sources.

According to Hollywood legend, when director King Vidor couldn't get tears out of Jackie Cooper for one scene, he pretended to fire assistant director Red Golden, a friend of the child star's, in order to get the child worked up. As soon as the scene was finished, Vidor rehired Golden as a "reward" to Cooper. In his memoirs, however, Cooper claims never to have liked Golden.

Another legend surrounds Wallace Beery's Oscar® win. Minutes before the end of voting, actress and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper raced into the Motion Picture Academy®'s offices to hand in her ballot. As a friend of MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who had helped her land her job as a columnist in an effort to diminish rival columnist Louella Parsons's power, she most likely had voted for Beery. Some insisted she had actually run in to deliver her ballot at Mayer's personal request, to make sure Beery won. If she did vote for him, her last-minute ballot put him within one vote of winner Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), who was the actual winner. Under Academy® rules at that time (since changed), the results were considered a tie.

By Frank Miller

Trivia-The Champ - Trivia & Fun Facts About THE CHAMP

Because The Champ was made before the repeal of Prohibition, Frances Marion set the story mostly in Tijuana. That prevented protests from reformers and censors, who might otherwise have objected to the title character's easy access to liquor. Until the final scene, when "There's No Place Like Home" plays on the soundtrack, all of the music in the film comes from environmental sources. According to Hollywood legend, when director King Vidor couldn't get tears out of Jackie Cooper for one scene, he pretended to fire assistant director Red Golden, a friend of the child star's, in order to get the child worked up. As soon as the scene was finished, Vidor rehired Golden as a "reward" to Cooper. In his memoirs, however, Cooper claims never to have liked Golden. Another legend surrounds Wallace Beery's Oscar® win. Minutes before the end of voting, actress and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper raced into the Motion Picture Academy®'s offices to hand in her ballot. As a friend of MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who had helped her land her job as a columnist in an effort to diminish rival columnist Louella Parsons's power, she most likely had voted for Beery. Some insisted she had actually run in to deliver her ballot at Mayer's personal request, to make sure Beery won. If she did vote for him, her last-minute ballot put him within one vote of winner Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), who was the actual winner. Under Academy® rules at that time (since changed), the results were considered a tie. By Frank Miller

The Big Idea-The Champ


Wallace Beery had been a major star in the silent era, though his career floundered a bit with the coming of sound. He had scored a surprise hit as the child-like killer in The Big House and as Marie Dressler's on-screen sparring partner in Min and Bill (both 1930), but before long, Hollywood insiders were saying his days as a leading man were over. Determined to prove them wrong, screenwriter Frances Marion, one of the most influential writers at MGM, wrote the story of The Champ as a vehicle for him. She did this with the full support of studio head Louis B. Mayer and his production chief, Irving G. Thalberg, who had noted the audience's positive response to the actor's performance in The Big House. Beery was so pleased with the part he claimed to have turned down an offer of $500,000 to play the Buddha for independent producers in order to make the film.

Attracted by the script's depiction of family values and its optimism, King Vidor gladly accepted the chance to direct, even though the story was more sentimental and less innovative than such earlier pictures of his as The Big Parade (1925), The Crowd (1928), Hallelujah (1929) and Street Scene (1931). The experimental nature of some of his most famous films also left him feeling obligated to give MGM a more traditional film that would have a better chance at the box office than The Crowd or Hallelujah.

After scoring an Oscar® nomination at the age of nine for Paramount's Skippy (1931), directed by his uncle Norman Taurog, Jackie Cooper was the biggest child star in Hollywood. MGM borrowed him from Paramount at a cost of $1,500 a week.

By Frank Miller

The Big Idea-The Champ

Wallace Beery had been a major star in the silent era, though his career floundered a bit with the coming of sound. He had scored a surprise hit as the child-like killer in The Big House and as Marie Dressler's on-screen sparring partner in Min and Bill (both 1930), but before long, Hollywood insiders were saying his days as a leading man were over. Determined to prove them wrong, screenwriter Frances Marion, one of the most influential writers at MGM, wrote the story of The Champ as a vehicle for him. She did this with the full support of studio head Louis B. Mayer and his production chief, Irving G. Thalberg, who had noted the audience's positive response to the actor's performance in The Big House. Beery was so pleased with the part he claimed to have turned down an offer of $500,000 to play the Buddha for independent producers in order to make the film. Attracted by the script's depiction of family values and its optimism, King Vidor gladly accepted the chance to direct, even though the story was more sentimental and less innovative than such earlier pictures of his as The Big Parade (1925), The Crowd (1928), Hallelujah (1929) and Street Scene (1931). The experimental nature of some of his most famous films also left him feeling obligated to give MGM a more traditional film that would have a better chance at the box office than The Crowd or Hallelujah. After scoring an Oscar® nomination at the age of nine for Paramount's Skippy (1931), directed by his uncle Norman Taurog, Jackie Cooper was the biggest child star in Hollywood. MGM borrowed him from Paramount at a cost of $1,500 a week. By Frank Miller

Behind the Camera-The Champ


The Champ went into production in August 1931 and finished shooting in October. It was ready for theatres by November.

The racetrack scenes were shot on the MGM back lot, with a few establishing shots taken at Agua Caliente in Baja California, Mexico. The film also includes some location shots taken in Tijuana.

Although the Champ was a great role for Beery, he was none too thrilled to be working with Jackie Cooper, sharing most adult actors' distrust of child stars. Cooper would later accuse the star of trying to upstage him and treating him like "an unkempt dog," behavior he ascribed to jealousy. (Cooper, quoted by Mark Thise in Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z)

The film did fine at its first preview until the last reel. As originally written, Beery 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 G. Thalberg ordered the final scene reshot so that Beery won the match. At the next preview, the audience cheered at the end.

MGM advertised the film as "The knockout picture of the year!" They also used the line "Don't fail to get a ringside seat!"

By Frank Miller

Behind the Camera-The Champ

The Champ went into production in August 1931 and finished shooting in October. It was ready for theatres by November. The racetrack scenes were shot on the MGM back lot, with a few establishing shots taken at Agua Caliente in Baja California, Mexico. The film also includes some location shots taken in Tijuana. Although the Champ was a great role for Beery, he was none too thrilled to be working with Jackie Cooper, sharing most adult actors' distrust of child stars. Cooper would later accuse the star of trying to upstage him and treating him like "an unkempt dog," behavior he ascribed to jealousy. (Cooper, quoted by Mark Thise in Hollywood Winners & Losers A to Z) The film did fine at its first preview until the last reel. As originally written, Beery 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 G. Thalberg ordered the final scene reshot so that Beery won the match. At the next preview, the audience cheered at the end. MGM advertised the film as "The knockout picture of the year!" They also used the line "Don't fail to get a ringside seat!" By Frank Miller

The Champ (1931)


MGM production chief Irving G. Thalberg proved himself a master of re-making movies with The Champ (1931). Not only did his persistence and perception give the studio one of its biggest hits of the early thirties, it also helped make Wallace Beery an Oscar® winner, and one of MGM's biggest and most unlikely stars.

Although MGM is most often thought of as Hollywood's house of glamour, Thalberg and studio head Louis B. Mayer weren't beyond taking a chance on something grittier. They'd done that in 1930 with the prison picture The Big House, a film that's still being imitated today. One of that picture's biggest assets was Wallace Beery, playing a simple-minded but vicious killer. Beery was far from the glamorous matinee idol type that usually achieved stardom at MGM, but Mayer and Thalberg noticed how audiences responded to the wounded little boy hiding behind his pug ugly face and decided to give him the star build-up.

Frances Marion, the scriptwriter who won an Oscar® for The Big House created the perfect role for Beery, a washed up boxer who's only a champion in the eyes of his son. For the latter role, MGM signed its first child star, Jackie Cooper, who had scored a huge hit in the children's film Skippy (1931). Then, while the rest of the studio's stars were working on glittering vehicles dressed up in the latest fashions, they sent Berry, Cooper and director King Vidor on location to the seamier side of Tijuana to shoot their story.

As the rushes came back, they knew they had something special. When the film previewed, the audience was enthralled until the last reel. That reel was waiting for Thalberg when he got into the studio the next day. One look and he knew what was wrong. For the film's climax, Beery goes back to the ring for one more fight, just to show his son that he can. But he loses the match and dies. Thalberg ordered retakes so that Beery would win the match, and the next audience cheered the film.

When the Oscar® nominations were announced, Beery was considered the frontrunner for Best Actor. How could they not recognize his deeply felt star-making performance? But at the ceremonies, the winner turned out to be Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. March thanked the makeup artist who had transformed him into the horrific Hyde, and as the evening continued many in the audience grumbled that the Oscar® should have gone for his makeup, not his acting. Meanwhile, the voting committee was double-checking the ballots and noticed that March had beaten Beery by just one vote. At the time, that was enough to declare a tie (it now takes an equal number of votes), so Beery was called up to the podium and presented with an Oscar® of his own, which earned the evening's loudest ovation.

But a strange Hollywood rumor has sprung up about that award. On the last day of voting, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper raced to Academy® headquarters to hand in her ballot -two minutes before the deadline. Everybody in town knew that Hopper was a friend of Mayer's and owed him her job. Before long, people were saying that he called her at the last minute to get her to vote for Beery, just to make sure his star won.

Producer/Director: King Vidor
Screenplay: Frances Marion
Cinematography: Gordon Avil
Film Editing: Hugh Wynn
Principal Cast: Wallace Beery (Champ), Jackie Cooper (Dink), Irene Rich (Linda), Roscoe Ates (Sponge), Edward Brophy (Tim), Hale Hamilton (Tony).
BW-87m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller

The Champ (1931)

MGM production chief Irving G. Thalberg proved himself a master of re-making movies with The Champ (1931). Not only did his persistence and perception give the studio one of its biggest hits of the early thirties, it also helped make Wallace Beery an Oscar® winner, and one of MGM's biggest and most unlikely stars. Although MGM is most often thought of as Hollywood's house of glamour, Thalberg and studio head Louis B. Mayer weren't beyond taking a chance on something grittier. They'd done that in 1930 with the prison picture The Big House, a film that's still being imitated today. One of that picture's biggest assets was Wallace Beery, playing a simple-minded but vicious killer. Beery was far from the glamorous matinee idol type that usually achieved stardom at MGM, but Mayer and Thalberg noticed how audiences responded to the wounded little boy hiding behind his pug ugly face and decided to give him the star build-up. Frances Marion, the scriptwriter who won an Oscar® for The Big House created the perfect role for Beery, a washed up boxer who's only a champion in the eyes of his son. For the latter role, MGM signed its first child star, Jackie Cooper, who had scored a huge hit in the children's film Skippy (1931). Then, while the rest of the studio's stars were working on glittering vehicles dressed up in the latest fashions, they sent Berry, Cooper and director King Vidor on location to the seamier side of Tijuana to shoot their story. As the rushes came back, they knew they had something special. When the film previewed, the audience was enthralled until the last reel. That reel was waiting for Thalberg when he got into the studio the next day. One look and he knew what was wrong. For the film's climax, Beery goes back to the ring for one more fight, just to show his son that he can. But he loses the match and dies. Thalberg ordered retakes so that Beery would win the match, and the next audience cheered the film. When the Oscar® nominations were announced, Beery was considered the frontrunner for Best Actor. How could they not recognize his deeply felt star-making performance? But at the ceremonies, the winner turned out to be Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. March thanked the makeup artist who had transformed him into the horrific Hyde, and as the evening continued many in the audience grumbled that the Oscar® should have gone for his makeup, not his acting. Meanwhile, the voting committee was double-checking the ballots and noticed that March had beaten Beery by just one vote. At the time, that was enough to declare a tie (it now takes an equal number of votes), so Beery was called up to the podium and presented with an Oscar® of his own, which earned the evening's loudest ovation. But a strange Hollywood rumor has sprung up about that award. On the last day of voting, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper raced to Academy® headquarters to hand in her ballot -two minutes before the deadline. Everybody in town knew that Hopper was a friend of Mayer's and owed him her job. Before long, people were saying that he called her at the last minute to get her to vote for Beery, just to make sure his star won. Producer/Director: King Vidor Screenplay: Frances Marion Cinematography: Gordon Avil Film Editing: Hugh Wynn Principal Cast: Wallace Beery (Champ), Jackie Cooper (Dink), Irene Rich (Linda), Roscoe Ates (Sponge), Edward Brophy (Tim), Hale Hamilton (Tony). BW-87m. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Critics' Corner-The Champ


The Champ cost $361,000 to make and brought in over $1 million at the box office, a solid figure for its time.

"Without much to lean on in the way of a story, the ponderous Wallace Beery and the diminutive Jackie Cooper, under King Vidor's expert direction, last night succeeded in stirring the emotions of an audience in the Astor in a film called The Champ. This picture is a further example of clever acting saving the day, for there is little in this narrative of horse racing and pugilistic bouts that possesses much akin to originality, except possibly the loyalty of the boy to his father, an ex-prize-fighting champion, who is addicted to drink and gambling." -- Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times

"A good picture, almost entirely by virtue of an inspired performance by a boy, Jackie Cooper. There is none of the usual hammy quality of the average child actor in this kid. What also makes The Champ a good talker is a studied, understanding adult piece of work by the costar, Wallace Beery, who had to step to keep up with Jackie, and a Frances Marion original story that isn't bad for a boxing story." -- Variety

"The film is both wise and tragic in accepting that love and kindness may exist in radically incompatible terms. As obvious as that may be, it wasn't so common in Hollywood during the next thirty years in art because of the Hays Code ban on sympathy going to immoral characters." - Raymond Durgnant and Scott Simmon, King Vidor, American

By Frank Miller

AWARDS & HONORS

In a Film Daily poll of national critics to name the best film of 1932, The Champ came in second to Grand Hotel (1932).

In the third Academy Awards® balloting, The Champ was nominated for four Oscars®, including Best Picture and Best Director, the third of legendary director King Vidor's five nominations. It won Frances Marion her second Oscar® for Best Writing. Initially, that was the film's only win, with Norma Shearer announcing that Fredric March's performance in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) had beaten Wallace Beery's. The audience was not pleased. Beery had been considered the front-runner, and many grumbled that the award should have been given to March's make-up man, not the actor.

As MGM head Louis B. Mayer was accepting the Best Picture Oscar® for Grand Hotel, members of the Academy® were checking the votes and discovered that Beery had only lost the award by one vote. Under Academy® rules, that constituted a tie, so current president Conrad Nagel took the mike after Mayer to announce the discovery and hand Berry an Oscar®. The announcement drew one of the evening's biggest ovations.

At the party afterwards, March noted that in addition to sharing Best Actor honors, he and Beery had each recently adopted a child. "It seems a little odd that Wally and I were given awards for best male performance of the year," he said.

The Academy®'s rules have since been changed to stipulate that a tie will only happen when both nominees receive exactly the same number of votes. That has only happened five times since then, most notably when Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand shared the award in 1968 for The Lion in Winter and Funny Girl, respectively

By Frank Miller

Critics' Corner-The Champ

The Champ cost $361,000 to make and brought in over $1 million at the box office, a solid figure for its time. "Without much to lean on in the way of a story, the ponderous Wallace Beery and the diminutive Jackie Cooper, under King Vidor's expert direction, last night succeeded in stirring the emotions of an audience in the Astor in a film called The Champ. This picture is a further example of clever acting saving the day, for there is little in this narrative of horse racing and pugilistic bouts that possesses much akin to originality, except possibly the loyalty of the boy to his father, an ex-prize-fighting champion, who is addicted to drink and gambling." -- Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times "A good picture, almost entirely by virtue of an inspired performance by a boy, Jackie Cooper. There is none of the usual hammy quality of the average child actor in this kid. What also makes The Champ a good talker is a studied, understanding adult piece of work by the costar, Wallace Beery, who had to step to keep up with Jackie, and a Frances Marion original story that isn't bad for a boxing story." -- Variety "The film is both wise and tragic in accepting that love and kindness may exist in radically incompatible terms. As obvious as that may be, it wasn't so common in Hollywood during the next thirty years in art because of the Hays Code ban on sympathy going to immoral characters." - Raymond Durgnant and Scott Simmon, King Vidor, American By Frank Miller AWARDS & HONORS In a Film Daily poll of national critics to name the best film of 1932, The Champ came in second to Grand Hotel (1932). In the third Academy Awards® balloting, The Champ was nominated for four Oscars®, including Best Picture and Best Director, the third of legendary director King Vidor's five nominations. It won Frances Marion her second Oscar® for Best Writing. Initially, that was the film's only win, with Norma Shearer announcing that Fredric March's performance in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) had beaten Wallace Beery's. The audience was not pleased. Beery had been considered the front-runner, and many grumbled that the award should have been given to March's make-up man, not the actor. As MGM head Louis B. Mayer was accepting the Best Picture Oscar® for Grand Hotel, members of the Academy® were checking the votes and discovered that Beery had only lost the award by one vote. Under Academy® rules, that constituted a tie, so current president Conrad Nagel took the mike after Mayer to announce the discovery and hand Berry an Oscar®. The announcement drew one of the evening's biggest ovations. At the party afterwards, March noted that in addition to sharing Best Actor honors, he and Beery had each recently adopted a child. "It seems a little odd that Wally and I were given awards for best male performance of the year," he said. The Academy®'s rules have since been changed to stipulate that a tie will only happen when both nominees receive exactly the same number of votes. That has only happened five times since then, most notably when Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand shared the award in 1968 for The Lion in Winter and Funny Girl, respectively By Frank Miller

Quotes

The Champ and I ain't fixed up swell as this, but our joint's more lively.
- Linda Carlton

Trivia

Wallace Beery actually got one less vote than Fredric March in the 1931/1932 Academy Awards voting for best actor, but the rules at the time considered anyone with one or two votes less than the leader as being in a tie. So both got Academy Awards.

This film ranked second as best picture in the 1932 Film Daily poll of national critics, being beaten only by Grand Hotel (1932).

Notes

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.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1931

Released in United States 1931