Body and Soul

Body and Soul
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Charley Davis, against the wishes of his mother, becomes a boxer. As he becomes more successful the fighter becomes surrounded by shady characters, including an unethical promoter named Roberts, who tempt the man with a number of vices. Charley finds himself faced with increasingly difficult choices.

Title:Body and Soul
Release Date:November 9, 1947
Runtime:
Genres:Drama
Production Co.:Enterprise Productions
Production Countries:United States of America
Director:Robert Rossen, Robert Aldrich
Writers:
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:transporter, boxing match, sport, classic noir, over-the-hill fighter, over the hill

Body and Soul Reviews

  • More A Human Interest Story Than A Boxing Tale
    by ccthemovieman-1 on 9 October 2005

    31 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

    I looked at this as simply a good story, a solid drama that happened to have the sport of boxing figure into it. "Boxing movies." if people insist on labeling this under that category, were particularly popular around the time of this film. Many of them had similar stories about a good guy being told to take a dive or else. Yes, that was in here, too, but it wasn't anywhere near the central part of the story. This film was more of an earlier "Raging Bull"-type tale in that it concentrated on the friends, family, freeloaders, criminals and women surrounding the main male character.

    This was more of a story about a decent man who gets carried away with success and with the power and money that goes with it. As good as the lead actor, John Garfield, was in here - and he was good - I was more intrigued with the supporting characters.

    Lilly Palmer looked and sounded the part of a refined sweet, pretty French girl (whatever that means) and was a good contrast to the uneducated and quick tempered brute (Garfield). As in so many stories, she wasn't fully appreciated by her man until the end. Anne Revere, as Garfield's mom (she seemed to always play the lead character's mother in 1940s films) was fascinating as she always was and kudos to Joseph Peveny as "Shorty" and Lloyd Gough a "Roberts." Both added a lot to the film. Wlliam Conrad and Hazel Brooks added some great film noir-- type dialog, berating each other once in a while.

    These actors, and the photography of James Wong Howe, make this a cut above most if not all the so-called "boxing films."

  • Blood, Sweat, and Soul in the Grandfather of the Boxing Genre...
    by Donald J. Lamb on 22 June 1999

    29 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

    If Jake LaMotta, the real life raging bull, ever went to the movies, he must have seen BODY AND SOUL a hundred times. It practically predicts the course of his career and the world of sports cinema, specifically boxing films. Robert Rossen's 1947 black and white boiler is clearly an influence on ROCKY and RAGING BULL, along with countless other rags-to-riches sports stories with a hint of corruption. John Garfield, an actor I feel serves an audience more with his mere screen presence than his acting skills, is stunning as "Charley Davis", the kid from New York who wants a shot at the title.

    Notice Garfield's prudent girlfriend. Remind you of Adrian? (ROCKY) How about the mob boss who wants 50 percent of Garfield's winnings? Remind you of Nicholas Colasanto from RAGING BULL? Of course. BODY AND SOUL is the altar of origin from which these films worshiped. Garfield dabbled in boxing off-screen until his untimely death in 1952 and appears like LaMotta, or De Niro, in many scenes. His temper can fly quickly and without warning. CHAMPION with Kirk Douglas and SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME with Paul Newman have taken some licks from this sensational film that roared like most of the best films of the 1940's.

    Boxing is the ultimate sport to depict in film because such interesting character studies can come out of them. A boxer is, for the most part, alone. Other sport films seem to suffer because more has to be captured and the sport itself is usually portrayed poorly and unrealistic. Boxing takes place in a small ring, as does the life of most boxers (or so it seems). Director Robert Rossen is also a master at creating pictures where a flawed main character creates his own suffering and pain and has a fundamental misunderstanding of women. Just see Broderick Crawford in ALL THE KING'S MEN or Paul Newman in THE HUSTLER.

    No fight scene captures your attention until the pivotal final championship defense by "Charley Davis". Will he throw it for the easy bucks or win it for pride and the adulation of his simple New York roots? It is very unapparent and hard to see coming. The authenticity of the climactic fight is made all the more powerful with its newsreel look and in-your-face photography and makeup. Credit cinematographer James Wong Howe for the realistic look and credit the blood and sweat of Garfield, writer Abraham Polonsky, and director Rossen to bring such a captivating story of corruption and glory to the screen.

  • The Best Film of its Genre
    by PWNYCNY on 27 July 2005

    20 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

    When considering the factors that contributed to making this movie one of truly great cinema classics, such as the story, the direction, the dialogue, the pathos, the conflicts, the supporting cast, the one factor that most directly contributed to making this movie great was that of it's star, John Garfield. Here, Garfield plays Charlie Davis, a brooding, moody, cynical, angry young man traumatized by his father's untimely and violent death and determined to literally fight his way out of poverty, no matter what it takes. Yet, Charlie Davis is likable, for despite the hardened exterior, he is still fundamentally a good man who is struggling to do what is right despite the pressure to cave in to those who merely want to use him. And although Charlie weakens, he never breaks, and when put to the test, his basic honesty and strength shine through, which makes him a hero and which transforms this movie from just another boxing movie into a true cinematic classic.

  • The usual tale, told well
    by George Tetsel (citizenkane@lycosmail.com) on 24 November 1999

    20 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

    In many ways, 'Body and Soul' is a very typical Hollywood story. It has the 'local boy makes it big', the 'vamp and the virgin', the 'corrupt businessmen' and of course the final moral fight. However, James Wong Howe's brilliant cinematography and John Garfield's solid acting lift this movie above the norm. Every emotion is heart-felt, and the tension at the end is perfectly presented. One of the best boxing movies.

  • Down but not out
    by Martin Bradley (MOscarbradley@aol.com) on 27 January 2008

    12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

    This boxing picture deals with the seedier side of the business; (is there any other?). It helps that it was written by Abraham Polonsky whose script is suitably cynical and hard-boiled. John Garfield is the pugnacious fighter easily swayed by the prospects of easy money and not adverse to taking a dive. It's a fine, hard-nosed performance. Garfield was always at his best in roles that required him to battle with his conscience.

    The whole movie is well cast. The under-rated Lilli Palmer is fine as the 'nice' girl who loves him as is Hazel Brooks as the 'bad' girl who seduces him while the villains are ably taken care of by Lloyd Gough and William Conrad. Best of all there is Anne Revere as Garfield's mother. (Did Revere play everybody's mother movies?). It's another of her no-nonsense roles. Revere was one tough cookie who kept her heart of gold well-hidden. The climatic fight scene is very well staged and Robert Parrish and Frances Lyon's editing won the Oscar while James Wong Howe's cinematography adds considerably to the realism.

  • Great '40s film starring John Garfield
    by blanche-2 on 22 April 2008

    12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

    John Garfield is a fighter taken over "Body and Soul" in this 1947 Faustian drama about a man who becomes too heady with success and too greedy, eventually signing on with a crooked fight promoter. Garfield is supported here by Lilli Palmer, Anne Revere, Hazel Brooks, William Conrad, Canada Lee and Lloyd Gough.

    American filmmakers love boxing movies, and why not? It's a one on one brutal action sport that has inherent in it good drama because of what is at stake for people who most likely came from nothing and used their fists on the street. "Body and Soul" is no different in this regard, but it's one of the best of its kind. It also boasts an unusual and exceptionally talented cast.

    The film is loaded with conflict for Charlie Davis (Garfield) - his mother (Revere) doesn't want him to fight; he's in love with Peg (Palmer) and wants to marry her but is talked into delaying it when he signs on with a new and corrupt promoter, Roberts (Gough). This will be the first of Charlie's concessions and unfortunately not the last. He fights Ben (Lee), but isn't told that the man has a blood clot and he needs to coast through only a few rounds. Instead, he pulverizes Ben, causing further brain damage, and takes him on as a trainer out of guilt. Then he's seduced by a money-hungry babe named Alice (Brooks). And on and on, until Roberts bets against him and orders him to take a dive in the championship fight he's been waiting for. (With all the films done about taking dives, anyone who bets on a fight is nuts.) Something about this movie - maybe it's the theme song, which is one of my favorites - swept me away. It's one of Garfield' most colorful performances, and the beautiful, classy Palmer is a perfect juxtaposition not only to the streetwise Charlie but the trashy Alice.

    The truly transcendent role and performance is essayed by Canada Lee, a wonderful actor who died too young and had too few opportunities in film. His performance as the volatile, ill Ben was Oscar-worthy. Like Ben Carter in "Crash Dive," the fact that Lee is black does not enter into the script at all, and he is treated as an equal.

    For all the rotten stereotyping done in films at that time, there were a few scripts that defied it. Lee was blacklisted and died in 1952 (the same year that John Garfield died), at 45, almost literally of a broken heart. He left a legacy of five films and some wonderful stage work, including Orson Welles' all-black Macbeth. Cast members Garfield, Lee, Anne Revere, Lloyd Gough, Art Smith, Shimen Ruskin, scriptwriter Abraham Polonsky and producer Bob Roberts would all find themselves blacklisted, and director Rossen would be threatened but admit to being a Communist and name names.

    Magnificently photographed in black and white by James Wong Howe and with top direction, "Body and Soul" is an example of how wonderful film can be.

  • I Fell For You, Body And Soul
    by bkoganbing on 28 July 2008

    13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

    Body and Soul was the first of several free lance productions that John Garfield did after his contract with Warner Brothers was concluded. He certainly didn't take any artistic chances because the role of Charlie Davis, the Jewish middleweight boxing champion from the Lower East Side of New York was something Garfield could identify with. He'd played a fighter in his second film, They Made Me A Criminal to great acclaim. And he'd appeared in the original production of Golden Boy though not in the lead. He'd be doing that on stage at the time of his demise in 1952.

    But while Body and Soul didn't blaze any artistic trails for Garfield, it did give him a great role that earned him a second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Garfield lost to Ronald Colman that year in A Double Life.

    Garfield has the feel for the heart and soul of Davis because that was his background. Another reviewer suggested that the Davis character is based on the famous lightweight champion Benny Leonard who would have been a hero to a Jewish kid like Julius Garfinkle growing up first on the Lower East Side and then in the Bronx. Leonard also died around the time Body and Soul was being made and movie audiences would have known that and the film would have a special poignancy for them.

    The story is told in flashback as Charlie Davis dozes off in the training room before a defense of his middleweight crown. He's in a depression about the death of someone named Ben.

    Ben turns out to be Canada Lee former champion himself who was Garfield's trainer. We see how Garfield who at first listened to his mother Anne Revere not to fight, but then when father Art Smith dies, economics forces him into the ring. Garfield gets involved with two women, artist Lilli Palmer and nightclub singer Hazel Brooks.

    He also gets involved with a manager who eventually turns on him in William Conrad and a sleazy promoter in Lloyd Gough. If you're a fan of boxing films I think you can figure out where this will all end up.

    But the ride is a good one. Besides Garfield's nomination, Body and Soul got another Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay by Abraham Polonsky. And it won the Oscar that year for Best Film Editing. That's for the great work in that department during that final boxing match.

    For fans of John Garfield, Body and Soul is a must. Besides all that there's that great Johnny Green-Edward Heyman song from the Thirties that got a revival because of this film.

  • A great showcase for Canada Lee
    by glimmer207 on 22 December 2002

    15 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

    One especially noteworthy aspect of this movie is the character of Ben Chaplin, played by the criminally underappreciated African American actor Canada Lee. A trademark of Lee's few but memorable screen roles is how his characters transcend the racial stereotypes of the day (see also his role in "Lifeboat"). Where Chaplin is black, his race is never mentioned, and is never even made an issue. There's no assumption of deferrence to the white characters. He is treated as an equal, which, especially for 1947, is an amazing breakthrough.

    The other strengths of the movie, particularly Garfield's performance and James Wong Howe's cinematography, have been duly mentioned in other posts.

  • A Memorable Soul ***'1/2
    by edwagreen on 25 January 2006

    12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

    John Garfield delivers a worthy Oscar nominated performance in the story of "Body and Soul."

    Poor and from a tough neighborhood, Garfield sees boxing as a way out of his current existence.

    As usual, veteran pro, Anne Revere, was called upon to play Garfield's mom. This terrific Oscar winning actress (1944 for National Velvet, in a supporting role) played just about everyone's mom in Hollywood during the 1940s. "Mom" to Gregory Peck in "Gentleman's Agreement," Linda Darnell's mother in "Forever Amber,"Montgomery Clift's mom in "A Place in the Sun" and Jennifer Jones'mother in "The Song of Bernadette." To me, Miss Revere, who was a descendant from Paul Revere, delivers a memorable line in the movie. To paraphrase, she states: "I want you to be respected. I want you to be a teacher." Sure, in 1947, the teaching profession was looked up to-to use a pun, it was revered.

    Unfortunately, this great line has been overshadowed by the line, "Everybody dies." Must we always be true to life?

    A hard-nosed, gripping film dealing not only with human emotions, but the fighting ring as well along with its corruption. A film exhibiting one wallop of a punch.

  • The way films used to be!
    by shirlr-1 on 22 January 2002

    11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

    Great flick. I loved it for two reasons: simplicity and realism - about life and about professional sports. Its a clearly drawn sketch of a guy like Charley. Garfield is at his best. He is totally credible. Everything is clear: Peg is all good - all giving. Alice the vamp is one hundred percent evil. So is the promoter, Roberts. A subtle contrast versus these black and whites is Garfield's character because he is flawed. He changes moral coloring as the plot progressives. They stay the same. We know the good guys and girls right away. No moral obscurity here. Clearly an old-fashioned movie - this is the way they used to be. No car chases, no mega-explosions, and no moral relativity either. And there's a plot, too. We need more of these.

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