Body and Soul
The riveting 1947 drama Body and Soul, arguably the greatest boxing movie of all time, centers on a former pugilist who looks back on his life in and out of the ring and realizes that self-respect is a more important prize than winning. John Garfield is Charley Davis, a former boxing champion who began fighting in order to save himself and his mother from poverty after his father was killed in a mob-related bombing. William Conrad plays Quinn, a veteran boxer turned trainer who discovers that Davis has the potential to be a professional fighter. Eager to take on all contenders, Davis eventually defeats the world champion, but winning has cost Garfield more than he bargained for: he falls in with the mob and takes to a life of easy women and plentiful booze, winning easy bouts with second-rate opponents. It takes the tragic death of his best friend -- indrectly caused by a beating from a mobster -- for Davis to realize the error of his ways and try to make amends, returning to his mother and the artist girlfriend he left behind. Out of shape and still distraught, he hires as his trainer the former champion whom he defeated earlier, to attempt a comeback. With all the odds against him, and knowing that the fight has already been fixed, Davis is forced to make the choice between what's expected of him and what he expects of himself. Although not the first Hollywood film about winning and losing in the boxing world, and saddled with the genre's familiar clichés, Garfield's engaging performance makes Body and Soul tower above nearly all other films of its kind. The fight sequences were filmed on roller skates with a hand-held camera, adding a realism that strengthens the film's standing as a masterpiece.