The Set-Up (1949) Robert “Rocky” Ryan

The Set-Up (1949) robert ryan boxing film noir movie poster

Here’s a super smashing punching sweating panting tension filled film noir boxing drama starring Robert Ryan as the aging human punch bag, Bill “Stoker” Thompson. What a film The Set-Up turned out to be and it popped my 40’s cherry on this here blog.

The Set-Up (1949) film noir boxing movie opening titles ring side

Stoker is a proud tough man but unfortunately on a loosing streak and what with his age, his manager Tiny (George Tobias) takes a big bet out with local ringside gangster Little Boy (Alan Baxter) for Stoker to take a fall against his next opponent, the leaner and younger Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor). Stupidly his manager at the Paradise City boxing club doesn’t let Stoker in on his bet because our hero has other plans..

The Set-Up (1949) Julie (Audrey Totter) paradise city boxing club

Stoker has his “Adrian“, his doting wife Julie (Audrey Totter), a gal he so wants to impress. He wants to earn some dollar and set up a cigar stand or maybe become a trainer, Julie just wants him to stop before he gets beaten senseless, loses his memory or even worse, ends up dead!

Julie – I Want a Man… Not a Human Punching Bag!

The Set-Up (1949) robert ryan stoker boxing changing rooms

In a just brilliant locker scene, you see all the boxers getting ready to fight, the fear, excitement, anxiety and bravery. Some go out scared and come back winners, others return with the cocky smile wiped off their faces. Stoker sits there absorbing all the energy in the room, slowly psyching himself up to take out his opponent.

The Set-Up (1949) film noir boxing movie Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor)

If only Julie was there to watch him like she always does but she is dealing with her own future.

The Set-Up (1949) film noir boxing movie robert ryan stoker

When the bell rings the heads go crunch, fist slamming body blows, twisting hips and flying uppercuts and jabs rain down across the ring. What expires is a truly righteous fight, a fight that takes up half the film!

The Set-Up (1949) robert ryan (stoker)Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor)The Set-Up (1949) robert ryan (stoker)Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor) 3The Set-Up (1949) robert ryan (stoker)Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor) 2

Can Stoker fight without Julie as his inspiration? Will he be able to beat the Tiger? If he does, what does that mean? Or will he just end up with a bumbling messed up mind? It’s a very recommend watch. Have you seen it? or if you do, let me know your thoughts.

The Set-Up (1949) film noir boxing movie robert ryan stoker 2

Lots of observations on this film so here goes…….

Both Robert Ryan and Hal Baylor measure up to 6′ 4″ and both accomplished boxers. The choreographed fight scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen especially for the time. You are there, ring side all the way. It’s an epic fight that looks so incredibly realistic that they must of really been beating seven bells of shit out of each other.

Hal Baylor plays the giant rosy cheeked bouncer Michael in A Boy And His Dog

Director Robert Wise has a bonkers film list he’s made from classics like West Side Story and The Sound Of Music. To some of my favourite films like The Andromeda Strain, Run Silent Run Deep and the first Star Trek movie, which is still a feast for the eyes.

In a genius little move, the film is in real-time. You see a clock at different parts of the movie starting at 9.05pm to panning out to 10.16pm. What a difference a little over an hour can do!

The Set-Up (1949) Canada Lee in film Body and Soul 1947

The Set-Up is based on a screenplay adaptation of a long poem by Joseph Moncure March. The one big thing they changed was the protagonist’s race, originally he was a black guy going under the name of Pansy Jones. I read that black actor Canada Lee, also a boxer, was possible for the role. On a search I see Canada Lee played a boxer in the film Body and Soul 1947 (Now on my watch list).  Robert Ryan completely smashes his part and you can’t see anyone else in that role but how amazing if the studio had the balls to cast a black actor in the lead role.

Now I need to see the boxing film made in the same year starring Kirk Douglas Champion.

Right I’ve blabbed on too much! Mikey Wolfman says “Have big fun at the movies”

The Set-Up (1949) robert ryan boxing film noir movie french poster

Stunning French version of the film poster

22 thoughts on “The Set-Up (1949) Robert “Rocky” Ryan

  1. Excellent film. I think this features on of Robert Ryan’s best screen performances (never seen him give a bad one). Sad, bleak and gripping. This is a film that lets the actors tell the story and the film takes its time. Looks incredible visually too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m slowly making my way through Robert Ryan’s movies and you’re so right, he does give such fine performances. I was so impressed with this one and looks like I’ve added to my watch list with some more film noir boxing dramas. Can’t wait to see them. Thank you for the comment Maddy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • If you are checking out Robert’s work I recommend Odds Against Tomorrow. God’s Little Acre. The Naked Spur. On Dangerous Ground.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh sweet indeed. I’m on all four of these.
          They all sound excellent, esp looking forward to “Odds Against Tomorrow” with Harry Belafonte and “On Dangerous Ground” was also recommend to me after I did a post on Ida Lupino “Hitch-Hiker”. I had tonight viewing sorted I thought but now you have thrown a spanner in the works hehe. Decisions.
          Thank you for the heads up on Mr Ryan. Very much appreciated and a very happy Wolfie 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m can never understand why The Set-up isn’t talked about in the same hushed tones as films like Night in the City. Robert Ryan’s performance packs one hell of a punch and the pacing, the anticipation, and the dread simply don’t let up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul you hit the nail on the head perfectly. It certainly does pack a punch in more ways than one. I’m still can’t stop thinking about it and spent last night telling friends to get on it. So much I loved about it. Yep indeed Robert Ryan was sublime. I recently saw Night In The City too. Oh my that was amazing too. The beauty of being pretty new to noir is I’m having a fantastic time 🙂 Thanks for the comment


  3. I have now one question for you… could you tell me a couple of names that fall under this criteria: visually interesting (his is especially important, something surreal, avantgarde, weird too), made before 70-s, preferably in colour, both short/long is fine


  4. Magnificent film and one of Ryan’s best. He’s had a resurgence in recent years thanks in large part to TCM. Along with Mitchum, a bona fide poster boy for Noir flicks. My initial thoughts on Ryan were mostly negative cause as a kid he was a real SOB in The Dirty Dozen but then The Wild Bunch started to change my mind and then I discovered Noir. When I started reading this I was thinking you’ll need to see Champion and Body and Soul….lol… see you already mentioned them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same bro same. I always thought he was always the bad guy. Especially after only pretty recently watching Bad Day at Black Rock. He is so incredible in the set up. I was in that film hook line and sinker. I felt his pain. Only last night I watched, yet another nod from you, “Act Of Violence”. He may of not been the main part but man was he excellent and another film that blew me away. I’m about to make a beeline to the films of Robert Mitchum. I’ve seen a few but need to get on the noir stuff. I have “Crossfire” and “Out of the Past” and have been recommended “The Racket”. Need to get on that train.
      ps I do hope you and your family are having a lovely holiday. All the best.


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