As is my custom I turn to the world of the Sweet Science aka Boxing on December 26th. Usually I feature the Brawlers and Bruisers who enter the Square Jungle but how about a look at the many fine actors who did the training and held the water bucket in the corner. Those who coached and tried to bring out the best in their fighter.
Or in some cases weren’t necessarily looking after their fighter but rather the money they might have had riding on the opponent or just trying to get their man to take a fall so as not to run afoul of the mobsters that frequented the world of boxing movies.
Let’s start off with maybe the famous cornerman in movie history. Burgess Meredith in his celebrated role as Mickey who takes Rocky Balboa to fame, fortune and movie history.
How about Keenan Wynn and Earl Holliman doing their best to keep Dewey Martin on his feet in 1953’s Tennessee Champ.
Clint Eastwood as a corner man? That he was to Donald O’Connor of all people in 1955’s Francis In the Navy.
Like Eastwood, you’d expect Charles Bronson to be in the ring and while he appeared as a boxer in a number of movies and TV shows early on, here he is training the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis, in 1962’s Kid Galahad.
Ernie Borgnine holds the heavy as he instructs his pupil, Tony Curtis, in the finer points of the fight game in 1955’s The Square Jungle.
Paul Stewart and Arthur Kennedy stare up at their man, Kirk Douglas, in his star making turn in 1949’s Champion.
If ever an actor was born to play a boxing trainer/cornerman, I can’t think of a better one than Jack Warden. Here he is doing his best to keep Jon Voight motivated in 1979’s The Champ.
Comedy reigns when Barbra Streisand takes on corner duties to get Ryan O’Neal on track to a title shot in 1979’s The Main Event.
Be rest assured Bud won’t be taking any punches but he’ll be happy to let Lou step into the ring to do the fighting while he mans the corner.
That’s no cornerman, that’s Bogie the gangster, looking after his own interests and expecting his man, Bob Nestell, to take out Wayne Morris’ 1937 version of Kid Galahad.
Let’s close it down with a real life trainer who was behind two of the most famous men ever to lace up the gloves. Angelo Dundee (1921 – 2012). He worked with both Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard among others.
Boxing is certainly all purpose when it comes to cinema, you can pretty much have it as an element in any genre, maybe with the exception of Horror. Eddie Muller from TCM’s Noir Alley is something a boxing aficionado thanks in part to his own Dad, who covered boxing for a newspaper, and Boxing plays a frequent role in the Noir genre. Happy Holidays my friend.
Yes Noir and boxing go hand in hand thanks to the mob’s long time association with the fight game and gambling on the outcomes. Didn’t know Muller’s Dad was a boxing writer. I for one loved the fight game growing up which is why I still do this boxing day feature every year since starting the blog.
Cornerman supreme Mickey does what Mickey does best in this stirring locker-room scene from ROCKY II (1979) – put the wind up his famous protégé –
No one played the trainer quite like old Burgess. A career role for him that I think finally left movie goers with something to remember him by outside of The Penguin.
Brilliant twist on your celebrated Boxing Day post Mike with the corner men. Loved it.
Clint looks like he should be the one in the ring in that movie.
He got to be a corner man again in Million Dollar Baby but it would be great to have seen him in the ring in boxing movie.
Saying that we do get him as a bare knuckle boxer with his good pal Clyde.
Running out of actors as boxers to feature so went for the crusty cornermen. never even thought of Clint looking after Miss Swank. Could have made that into a double bill. Love Clint as Philo the streetfighter. “Right turn Clyde.”