The Harder They Fall (1956) Humphrey Bogart’s Last Film Is A Smasher

The Harder They Fall (1956) poster one sheet movie image boxing bogart noir

Not until it had finished and went to tick The Harder They Fall off my Humphrey Bogart films I must see list, that it dawned on me this was his final film before he passed away at the young age of 57. I have to say I didn’t realise he was ill whilst watching, he had all those classic Bogart characteristics and mannerisms we all so love. That world weary New York tough guy that hides a heart of gold, a style that you can imagine is naturally his real persona. He’s such a joy to watch and it’s great to know I still have a lot more Bogies to work my way through.

The Harder They Fall (1956) Humphrey Bogart Eddie Willis Nick Benko (Rod Steiger)

Humphrey plays Eddie Willis a respected sportswriter who hits financial problems when the newspaper he’d worked for years, goes under. Desperate for some cash flow coming in, he begrudgingly takes a job from gangster boxing promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger). Nick wants Eddie to be his press man, to rally up excitement for his newly acquired fighter, an Argentinian man mountain called Toro Moreno (Mike Lane). Unfortunately Eddie has his work cut out promoting this giant oversized fighter, he may look the part, towering at over 6ft 7″, but this wet behind the ears boxer is all visuals with no flare.

The Harder They Fall (1956) Toro Moreno (Mike Lane) tarzan mike coach lights

Eddie Willis – “Powderpuff punch and a glass jaw… that’s a great combination!”

Now Eddie knows all about the dodgy backhanded tactics which goes on in the game, he wrote about it but now he’s involved on the inside. Nick and his crew go to work paying backhanders to Toro’s opponents to fix the fights. Toro in his naive, innocent way believes he’s winning each fight and destined to become the heavyweight champion. Winning enough money to send back to his family in Argentina.

The Harder They Fall (1956) Max Baer Mike lane Toro Moreno vs Buddy BrannenThe Harder They Fall (1956) Humphrey Bogart Eddie Willis Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) back car

Will Eddie’s conscience get the better of him? Will he be able to find his moral standing? What with the money, the lies and the constant danger to the lives and careers of boxers. Eddies reputation lies in the actions he writes about.

The Harder They Fall (1956) Toro Moreno Mike Lane and Jersey Joe Walcott trainer george

Toro Moreno (Mike Lane) and Jersey Joe Walcott trainer George

Featuring a few old boxers from the time, like Jersey Joe Walcott (trainer George) who had fought against Rocky Marciano, the inspiration for film, boxing legend Rocky Balboa. Max Baer former heavyweight champion plays pretty much himself as Buddy Brannen. Pat Comiskey, a man who dished out 61 KO’s, plays fighter Gus Dundee. The giant Argentine, Toro Moreno was in fact American wrestler Mike Lane going under the name Tarzan Mike. Plus on the showreel footage being interviewed is an older boxer called Joey Greb who looks like he took a right bashing, resulting in brain damage.

The Harder They Fall (1956) Toro Moreno (Mike Lane) tarzan mike

Taglines – No Punches Pulled! If you thought “On The Waterfront” hit hard… wait till you see this one!

The moral ground taken within the movie is that of the treatment of boxers, which went against their safely, resulting in the deaths and bouts of brain damage. Also looking at the tricks and cheating tactics used by the gangster like promoters, all after a fast buck, ready to exploit their fighter as much as they could. All under the notion that when that one’s on the scrap heap, another fighter will soon come along to take their place.

The Harder They Fall (1956) Humphrey Bogart Eddie Willis Toro Moreno tour bus

Directed by Mark Robson, who I know made another boxing film before this called Champion starring Kirk Douglas. It’s on my “to watch soon” list. The Harder They Fall is in fact based on a novel by a sportswriter called Budd Schulberg. A book which took ideas from real life and thinly disguised then within the novel. Later to be recognised as perhaps being based on the career of Primo Carnera and the scandal which surrounded it, with one writer saying he was “very much mob controlled”. Looking at the history of his fights it does sound unfair if it wasn’t the case but in a twist of fate or plainly added on purpose, Max Baer who fought and won against Primo for the heavyweight contest is featured in the film. It is also said that Humphrey Bogart character is based on boxing promoter Harold Conrad, a man I learnt did the publicity for that infamous Evel Knievel jump over Snake River Canyon.

I can’t wait to watch more Humphrey Bogart, not sure which film will be next but it sure gonna be great.

The Harder They Fall (1956) poster one sheet movie image boxing bogart

 

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9 thoughts on “The Harder They Fall (1956) Humphrey Bogart’s Last Film Is A Smasher

  1. Not Bogie’s best, but certainly not his worst (see “Swing Your Lady” or “Return of Dr. X”!). Sadly, the cancer that killed Bogart was eating the great actor up by this time, and much of his dialog had to be redubbed by voice artist Paul Frees. As for Primo Carnera… yep, the mob and other sleazbag entities in the boxing biz owned so much of his contract, the poor pug never made a dime, and ended his career in the wrestling game. The Rod Serling-penned film “Requiem for a Heavyweight” is also based in part on the tragic tale of Carnera. Cheers!

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    • Haha I just looked up those two films, will steer clear or at least leave them till the end. Though seeing him with that streak of white hair makes him look like he’s part of The Munsters clan. I did really enjoy him in this film but the whole subject matter is a big interest so hearing about “Requiem for a heavyweight” is good news, I will go investigate. Thanks for the knowledge Gary and thanks for the super comment. 🙂

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  2. Don’t shy away from Return of Dr. X. Enjoy that campy feel and read up on how Bogie felt about doing it. lol. Requiem a really good story and bother versions worth looking for. Original live TV one with Jack Palance and the eventual film with Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney. Anyway this is another example of the power Bogie had on camera. What a talent and hard to believe he was gone following this one. Breaks my heart anytime I read up on his final days with Bacall and friends like Hepburn and Tracy coming to visit him. Check out his second last film if you already haven’t. It’s prime gangster Bogie in The Desperate Hours and he’s matched by Frederic March in a home invasion tale.

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    • Like musical chairs, I’ll move Return Of Dr X from near the bottom to somewhere in the middle. Will aim to look out for his thoughts on the experience, can imagine he doesn’t mince his words. Oh man I read the Bacall and Tracey account of the final days last night. “Goodnight, Bogie.” “Goodbye, Spence.”. So very sad.
      I think both versions of Requiem are on YT, I will venture in soon. Funny you say “The Desperate Hours” as that one was more than likely going to be the next one, cements that now. Thanks for your great knowledge too Mike. Cheers

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  3. Most film with Bogart are cool do not forget The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Casablanca my favourite, Matese Falcon the other favourite ,In a Lonely Place,Passage to Marseille,The Petrified Forest. There you got a few there than will see. Nice review.

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    • Cheers dude, a friend on facebook just mentioned The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, so I think that will be appear for my entertainment very soon. Casablanca needs a revisit soon. Maltese Falcon was most excellent and I have In A Lonely Place, I just need to get on with that one. The rest have been added to the “too watch soon” list 🙂 Cheers DTC

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  4. I’ve never seen this one either, so I think it’s time I give it a go…especially knowing it was Bogart’s last. And if you’re looking for cool boxing films, one of my favorites is the noir-tinged ‘The Set-Up’..simply outstanding.

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