Tag Archives: Edward Brophy

The Champ (1931)


Andy Purcell (Wallace Beery) is a washed-up, boozy boxer and compulsive gambler who travels from bout to bout with his adoring son, Dink (Jackie Cooper), in tow. But when Andy lands in a Tijuana jail, he realizes Dink’s welfare is at stake and sends him to live with his mother (Irene Rich). For his tour-de-force performance in the title role, Beery walked away with the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

This is a film from 1931, and while some of the language and culture doesn’t translate, the excellent performances and storyline endure.

We’re given a familiar character in today’s films, a former champ, now aging, a drinker who tries to be a good father but repeatedly fails. It reminds me of Ricky “The Ram” in the masterpiece “The Wrestler.” We follow The Champ as he faulters, all while his adoring son, who idolizes, watches and cares for him no matter the lousy situation he’s put in, supports him through it all.

Wallace Beery delivers the definition of an understated performance, and the film is held together by the performance of his son, played with skill beyond his very young years by Jackie Cooper. While some things come off a bit corny, like people saying, “Gee wiz,” it’s easy to overlook. There’s a couple of timeline disconnections you couldn’t get away with today, but this film is a charmer with grit,┬áreal drama and characters you root for —┬ádespite their faults.