Knockout: The Boxer and Boxing in American Cinema

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A study of Hollywood's continuing fascination with the sweet science

The boxer stands alongside the cowboy, the gangster, and the detective as a character that shaped America's ideas of manhood. Knockout: The Boxer and Boxing in American Cinema is the first book-length study of the Hollywood boxing film, a popular movie entertainment since the 1930s, that includes such classics as Million Dollar Baby, Rocky, and Raging Bull. Leger Grindon relates the Hollywood boxing film to the literature of Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, and Clifford Odets; the influence of ring champions, particularly Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali; and controversies surrounding masculinity, race, and sports.

Knockout breaks new ground in film genre study by focusing on the fundamental dramatic conflicts uniting both documentary and fictional films with compelling social concerns. The boxing film portrays more than the rise and fall of a champion; it exposes the body in order to reveal the spirit. Not simply a brute, the screen boxer dramatizes conflicts and aspirations central to an American audience's experience. This book features chapters on the conventions of the boxing film, the history of the genre and its relationship to famous ring champions, and self-contained treatments of thirty-two individual films including a chapter devoted to Raging Bull.

Leger Grindon, Middlebury, Vermont, is a professor of film studies at Middlebury College where he has taught since 1987. He is the author of Shadows on the Past: Studies in the Historical Fiction Film and Hollywood Romantic Comedy: Conventions, History, Controversies.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Leger Grindon's knowledgeable and astute look at the boxing film is a model of genre criticism. He has managed to say fresh and interesting things about an important group of films, some well-known, some less known than they should be. His analyses are informed and insightful. Not only is this the definitive work on the boxing film; it has valuable things to say about film genre generally and about the role of genre criticism."

--Edward Buscombe, author of Injuns! Native Americans in the Movies

"A very smart and accessible study of an important Hollywood genre. Grindon's knowledge of the social and historical background of boxing informs his excellent analysis of the films."

--Aaron Baker, Arizona State University, author of Contesting Identity: Sports in American Film

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781604739886
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 4/20/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Leger Grindon, Middlebury, Vermont, is a professor of film studies at Middlebury College where he has taught since 1987. He is the author of Shadows on the Past: Studies in the Historical Fiction Film and Hollywood Romantic Comedy: Conventions, History, Controversies.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 Why the Boxing Film? 3

The Meaningful Structure of the Boxing Film Genre

2 Gangsters, Champions, and the History of the Boxing Film 32

3 "Down for the Count" 73

Critique of the Success Ethic in the Boxing Film

4 "On the Ropes" 99

The Conflict between Assimilation and the Indigenous Community

5 Romance and the Ring 128

Gender Conflict in the Boxing Film

6 "Hitting Below the Belt" 156

Violence, Suffering, and Male Emotion

7 Body and Soul 189

The Conflict between the Flesh and the Spirit

8 Art and Genre in Raging Bull (1980) 231

Epilogue: Into the Twenty-First Century 267

Appendix I Cycles/Clusters of the Boxing Film Genre 283

Appendix II Boxing Films Cited 291

Works Cited 295

Index 303

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