The Champ


D: Franco Zeffirelli 

MGM (Dyson Lovell)

USA 🇺🇸 1979

122 mins


W: Walter Newman [based on the story by Frances Marion]

DP: Fred J. Koenecamp

Ed: Michael J. Sheridan

Mus: Dave Grusin 

Jon Voight (Billy 'Champ' Flynn), Ricky Schroeder (T.J. Flynn), Faye Dunaway (Annie), Jack Warden (Jackie), Joan Blondell (Dolly Kenyon)

This remake of a 1931 drama was released at the tail end of the 1970's and scored a legion of fans, especially male boxing fans who hail it as one of the biggest tearjerkers of all time.

Wallace Beery won an Oscar for his performance in the original movie, replaced in this remake by Jon Voight, off the back of an Oscar victory himself for his performance in 1978's Coming Home and amongst the biggest male film stars at the time of filming.

Voight plays Billy 'Champ' Flynn, a former boxing champion turned horse trainer, raising his 8-year-old son, T.J., on the racing stables of a Florida resort. Billy becomes resentful when his ex-wife and Billy's mother come back into their lives, expecting a relationship with her son following seven years with no contact.

Billy becomes indebted by gambling debts before a short spell in prison, where he plans his comeback in the ring against a formidable opponent.

Perhaps I'm a victim of watching this film too late, but the plot was very predictable, and the late-70's setting just doesn't ring as true as would have in the original film, set during the Great Depression of the 1930's.

Still, the father-son relationship between Voight and young Ricky Schroeder is marvellously well done, and it's easy to understand why many people would be choked by the ending.


Jon Voight & Ricky Schroeder in The Champ
Jon Voight & Ricky Schroeder in The Champ