So sorry for the long dry spell at the blog watering post. Suffice it to say that I’ve had a few things going on. About a month ago, not long after my last post, I had an idea for this post and though it coulda, shoulda, woulda been posted in early June, I guess I’ll give it a try now.
Movies about boxing. You see them all the time. I’m kind of a movie buff (owned a video rental place on the side for a few years), and I can think of dozens of titles, but just about anyone can think of at least six – you know, Rocky one, two, three, four, five, and six. There are all kinds. Movies with boxing as the main theme like Rocky one, two, etc., The Champ, or Raging Bull. And movies where boxing is a part of the setting for some other theme to be played out, like On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando, and The Boxer with Daniel Day Lewis. There are dramatized versions of famous boxer’s lives like The Great White Hope (Jack Johnson) and Somebody Up There Likes Me (Rocky Graziano), then there are straight up documentaries like When We Were Kings and Thrilla in Manila. There are even comedies about boxing like Barbara Streisand’s The Main Event and Prize Fighter with Don Knotts and Tim Conway.
As it is with movies in general, since there are so many boxing movies to choose from, it is hard to pick a single favorite. I guess I’ll take the easy way out and talk about four of my favorites.
I’ll start with Rocky (the original). Boy did Sylvester Stallone hit it out of the park with this movie. Stallone, who wrote the picture and starred in it was virtually unknown before this 1976 sports classic won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The simple story was nonetheless filled with memorable lines. My two favorite were when Burgess Meredith as Rocky’s trainer tells the going nowhere young fighter that being a debt collector for gangsters is “not a living, it’s a WASTE of LIFE!”, and when the fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed is over, Creed shouts to Rocky over the noise of the crowd “There’s not going to be a rematch!”, to which Rocky replies “Don’t want one!” (but there will be 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th movies).
Next there is Raging Bull. Martin Scorsese’s depiction of the life of boxer Jake LaMotta is brilliant and Robert De Niro is incredible in the title role (also winning the Academy Award for his performance). Leave it to Scorsese and crew to provide a depressing yet magnificent version of the dying american dream through this great film (and leave it to the geniuses of Waiting for Guffman to parody its lines for their own comical purposes).
A third boxing movie that really moves me is Requiem for a Heavyweight. This movie written by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling in the late 1950’s, was initially made for TV, then rolled out by Hollywood with the likes of Jackie Gleason, Anthony Quinn, Mickey Rooney, and Julie Harris starring. It is an incredibly dramatic story and the acting is top notch. It has also been performed on stage over the years. Watch it if you ever get a chance.
Finally I want to talk about the boxing documentary Thrilla in Manila, starring none other than my main Man Marvis Frazier (oh, and his Dad Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, etc.). This is a wonderful documentary about the amazing third fight between Frazier and Ali – some say the most brutal fight of all time. I happened upon it a few years ago through a review of it in the newspaper, but that minor event became major in my life after I met Marvis Frazier because of it. And now you know the rest of the story… or if you don’t you will when our book comes out!
So, what’s your favorite boxing movie and why? Until next time, Jamie
PS. What is Marvis’s favorite boxing movie? He’s not saying right now. He wants to reserve judgment until he sees who will be playing him in the movie based on our book (not really, I just made that up — Marvis doesn’t care who plays him in the movie!).