THE HARDER THEY FALL is a 1956 film noir directed by
The drama tells a "thinly disguised à clef account of the Primo Carnera boxing scandal," with the challenger based on Carnera and the champ based on Max Baer ; previously both Baer and Carnera had starred in The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933), in which Carnera is the world champ and Baer is his challenger. Bogart's character, Eddie Willis, is based on the career of boxing writer and event promoter Harold Conrad.
* 1 Plot * 2 Cast * 3 Background
* 4 Reception
* 4.1 Critical response * 4.2 Lawsuit
* 5 See also
* 6 References
* 6.1 Sources
* 7 External links
Sportswriter Eddie Willis (
Unbeknownst to Toro and his friend and manager Luís Agrandi (Carlos Montalbán ), all of his fights had been fixed to make the public believe that he is for real. After a short time, Benko gets Toro into a match against Gus Dundee (Pat Comiskey), the ex-heavyweight champ, before the title fight against Buddy Brannen (Max Baer ). Dundee has agreed to lose the fight, as he is suffering headaches and neck pain from his last fight against Brannen. Dundee ends up collapsing in the ring and later dies of a brain hemorrhage in the hospital.
Feeling culpability in Dundee's death, Eddie hesitates in continuing
his work in promoting Toro. Despite the misgivings of his wife (Jan
Sterling ), Benko has already convinced him otherwise due to Eddie
wanting a huge pay-day. However, Toro feels guilty over Dundee's death
and visits a priest (
In the meantime, Benko has planned for Toro to fight the heavyweight champ. Knowing Toro has no chance, Benko places large bets against his fighter. Toro thinks he can win, but Eddie shows him otherwise by having him knocked down by one of his handlers. Toro is then told how to lose without receiving a beating by staying away from Brannen with his long arm reach and to hug him when he is to close. But, Toro cares about what his friends and family will think about him, so he tries to fight convincingly while being brutally beaten in the process, suffering a broken jaw.
When Eddie goes to get the money owed to him and Toro, he finds out that Benko has rigged the accounting so that Toro ends up getting paid only $49.07. Ashamed, Eddie sends Toro home to Argentina with Eddie's own share of the proceeds, $26,000. When confronted by Benko, Eddie defies him, then begins writing an exposé about corruption in the boxing world.
Boxers appearing in the film:
* Jersey Joe Walcott as George * Max Baer as Buddy Brannen * Pat Comiskey as Gus Dundee * Joe Greb as Joey Greb
"Bogey and I got on very well. Unlike some other stars, when they
had closeups, you might have been relegated to a two-shot, or cut out
altogether. Bogey didn't play those games. He was a professional and
had tremendous authority. He'd come in exactly at 9am and leave at
precisely 6pm. I remember once walking to lunch in between takes and
seeing Bogey on the lot. I shouldn't have because his work was
finished for the day. I asked him why he was still on the lot, and he
said, 'They want to shoot some retakes of my closeups because my eyes
are too watery'. A little while later, after the film, somebody came
up to me with word of Bogey's death. Then it struck me. His eyes were
watery because he was in pain with the cancer. I thought: 'How dumb
can you be Rodney'!" —
Rod Steiger fondly recalling his encounters
The film was originally released with two different endings: in one, Eddie Willis demanded that boxing be banned altogether, while in the other, Willis merely insisted that there be a federal investigation of the prizefighting business. The video version contains the "harder" ending, while most television prints end with the "softer" message.
The film was Bogart's last; he died early in 1957. In late 1955,
during filming, he was already seriously ill with what would soon be
diagnosed as esophageal cancer . Occasionally inaudible in some takes,
some of his lines are reported to have been dubbed in post-production
The film was entered into the
1956 Cannes Film Festival
The New York Times
More recently, film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "The unwell Bogie's last film is not a knockout, but his hard-hitting performance is terrific as a has-been sports journalist out of desperation taking a job as a publicist for a fight fixer in order to get a bank account ... The social conscience film is realistic, but fails to be shocking or for that matter convincing."
* ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2,
* ^ Erickson, Hal.
The Harder They Fall
* Fantle, David; Johnson, Tom (2009). Twenty Five Years of Celebrity Interviews from Vaudeville to Movies to TV, Reel to Real. Badger Books Inc. ISBN 978-1-932542-04-2 .