The Prizefighter and the Lady

Last updated
The Prizefighter and the Lady
Poster of The Prizefighter and the Lady.jpg
Directed by W. S. Van Dyke
Howard Hawks (uncredited)
Produced byW. S. Van Dyke
Hunt Stromberg
Written by Frances Marion (story)
John Lee Mahin
John Meehan
Starring Myrna Loy
Max Baer
Primo Carnera
Jack Dempsey
Music by Frank Skinner
Paul Marquardt
Cinematography Lester White
Edited byRobert Kern
Distributed by MGM
Release date
  • November 10, 1933 (1933-11-10)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$682,000 [1]
Box office$933,000 [1]

The Prizefighter and the Lady is a 1933 pre-Code Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer romance film starring Myrna Loy and the professional boxers Max Baer, Primo Carnera, and Jack Dempsey. The film was adapted for the screen by John Lee Mahin and John Meehan from a story by Frances Marion. Marion was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story. [2]



While working as a barroom bouncer, sailor Steve Morgan (Max Baer) impresses alcoholic ex-boxing manager "the Professor" (Walter Huston) with his skills. The Professor talks Steve into entering a prize fight with an up-and-coming boxer to make money for both of them.

While out training on the road, Steve is nearly run over by a speeding car that crashes into a ditch. He carries nightclub singer Belle Mercer (Myrna Loy) out of the wreckage. Though she is attracted to him, she refuses to have anything to do with Steve. He learns where she lives and goes to see her anyway. He is too cocky to be concerned when she reveals that she is the girlfriend of well-known gangster Willie Ryan (Otto Kruger). When Willie finds out, Belle reassures him she is in control of her emotions. Willie is not so certain about that, but is too shrewd to have Steve killed out of hand by his bodyguard, whom he jokingly calls his "Adopted Son" (Robert McWade). It turns out that he had cause for concern; Steve persuades Belle to marry him. Deeply in love with Belle himself and still hoping to get her back, Willie lets Steve live.

Steve quickly rises through the boxing ranks. However, he cannot keep from fooling around with other women. When Belle catches him in a lie, she tells him that she loves him, but if he cheats on her once more, she will leave him. While waiting for a bout for the heavyweight championship of the world, Steve performs in a musical revue. When Belle unexpectedly goes to his dressing room, she finds a woman hiding there. It is the end of their marriage. She gets her old job back with Willie.

Anxious to see the overconfident Steve humiliated, Willie finds out what is holding up the match with the current champion, Primo Carnera (playing himself), and pays $25,000 to set it up. When the Professor tries to get Steve to train properly (without women and liquor), Steve gets angry and slaps him, ending their partnership.

The championship bout is refereed by boxing promoter and former champion Jack Dempsey (himself). Belle, Willie and the Professor are all in attendance. For most of the ten-round fight, Steve gets pummeled by the much heavier Carnera. Finally, a distraught Belle urges the Professor to forget his wounded pride and go to Steve's corner to provide much needed advice. With his old friend and his ex-wife rooting him on, a heartened Steve makes a furious comeback in the final rounds. The match ends in a draw; Carnera retains his title.

Later, Willie enters Belle's nightclub dressing room and tells her she is fired. Then he brings Steve in and leaves the couple alone to reconcile.


Carnera, Loy and Baer in the film Max Baer, Myrna Loy, Primo Carnera 1932.jpg
Carnera, Loy and Baer in the film
Baer and Loy in the film Baer Loy in The Prizefighter and the Lady.jpg
Baer and Loy in the film

This movie was the film debut for Baer and Carnera. Dempsey, on the other hand, had already appeared in a number of films, dating back to 1920s Daredevil Jack .

The Three Stooges are reported to have been in a deleted scene. [3]


Howard Hawks was the initial director, but left the set when he found he would be working with non-actor Baer, not Clark Gable. MGM replaced Hawks with W. S. Van Dyke. [4]


On March 16, 1934, The Prizefighter and the Lady premiered at the Capitol Theater in Berlin. However, when permission was sought to show a German-dubbed version, Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels had the film banned in Germany because, as one of his underlings stated, "the chief character is a Jewish boxer" [5] (Baer's grandfather was Jewish). Baer contended, however, that "They didn't ban the picture because I have Jewish blood. They banned it because I knocked out Max Schmeling" [5] [6] on June 8, 1933.

The film grossed a total (domestic and foreign) of $933,000: $432,000 from the US and Canada and $501,000 elsewhere resulting in a loss of $105,000. [1]


Carnera was the world heavyweight boxing champion at the time of the film's release. Baer defeated Carnera in their real-life June 14, 1934, fight, knocking him down a record 11 times. He was supposedly able to do this after watching Carnera's fighting style during the movie's filming.[ citation needed ]

Home media

This film was released on DVD on June 27, 2011 by the Warner Archive Collection.

Related Research Articles

Max Schmeling German boxer

Maximilian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling was a German boxer who was heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932. His two fights with Joe Louis in 1936 and 1938 were worldwide cultural events because of their national associations. Schmeling is the only boxer to win the world heavyweight championship on a foul.

Jack Dempsey American boxer

William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey, nicknamed Kid Blackie, and The Manassa Mauler, was an American professional boxer who competed from 1914 to 1927, and reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. A cultural icon of the 1920s, Dempsey's aggressive fighting style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including the first million-dollar gate. He pioneered the live broadcast of sporting events in general, and boxing matches in particular.

Primo Carnera Italian boxer and professional wrestler

Primo Carnera, nicknamed the Ambling Alp, was an Italian professional boxer and wrestler who reigned as the boxing World Heavyweight Champion from 29 June 1933 to 14 June 1934. He won more fights by knockout than any other heavyweight champion in boxing history.

Tommy Loughran American boxer

Thomas Patrick Loughran was an American professional boxer and the former World Light Heavyweight Champion. Statistical boxing website BoxRec lists Loughran as the #7 ranked light heavyweight of all time, while The Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer placed him at #4. The International Boxing Research Organization rates Loughran as the 6th best light heavyweight ever. Loughran was named the Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year twice, first in 1929 and again 1931. He was inducted into the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame in 1956 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

Louis Ingber (1887–1969), better known as Lou Stillman, was a legendary boxing trainer who had a gym in New York City, but whose fame transcended beyond New York and into boxing circles virtually everywhere else. He was also a private detective prior to working as a boxing trainer.

Max Baer (boxer) American boxer

Maximilian Adelbert Baer was an American professional boxer who was the world heavyweight champion from June 14, 1934, to June 13, 1935. His fights were both rated Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine. Baer was also a boxing referee, and had an occasional role on film or television. He was the brother of heavyweight boxing contender Buddy Baer and father of actor Max Baer Jr.. Baer is rated #22 on The Ring magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.

Jack Sharkey Lithuanian-American boxer

Jack Sharkey was a Lithuanian-American world heavyweight boxing champion.

Jess Willard American boxer

Jess Myron Willard was an American world heavyweight boxing champion billed as the Pottawatomie Giant who knocked out Jack Johnson in April 1915 for the heavyweight title. Willard was known for size rather than skill, and though held the championship for more than four years, he defended it rarely and was in person reserved. In 1919, when he was 37 years of age he lost the title in an extremely one sided loss by declining to come out for the fourth round against Jack Dempsey, who became a more celebrated champion. Soon after the bout Willard began accusing Dempsey of using something with the effect of a knuckle duster. Dempsey did not grant Willard a return match, and at 42 years old he was KO'd, following which he retired from boxing, although for the rest of his life continued claiming Dempsey had cheated. Ferdie Pacheco expressed the opinion in a book that the surviving photographs of Willard's face during the Dempsey fight indicate fractures to Willard's facial bones suggesting a metal implement, and show he was bleeding heavily. The matter has never been resolved, with contemporaneous ringside sports journalist reporting by the NYT that Willard spat out at least one tooth and was "a fountain of blood" increasingly discounted in favor of a view that he had only a cut lip and a little bruising.

King Levinsky American boxer

King Levinsky, also known as Kingfish Levinsky, was an American heavyweight boxer who fought during the 1930s. He was born Harris Kraków and was a member of the Kraków fish-selling family of Maxwell Street, in Chicago's old Jewish ghetto.

George Godfrey (boxer, born 1897) American boxer

George Godfrey (II) The Leiperville Shadow was the ring name of Feab Smith Williams, a heavyweight boxer from the state of Alabama who fought from 1919-1937. He named himself after George "Old Chocolate" Godfrey, a Black Canadian boxer from the bare-knuckle boxing days who had been a top name during the John L. Sullivan era. Old Chocolate had been the fourth fighter to reign as World Colored Heavyweight Champion while the second George Godfrey was the 20th fighter to hold the colored heavyweight title.

<i>Cinderella Man</i> 2005 film by Ron Howard

Cinderella Man is a 2005 American biographical sports drama film directed by Ron Howard, titled after the nickname of world heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock and inspired by his life story. The film was produced by Howard, Penny Marshall, and Brian Grazer. Damon Runyon is credited for giving Braddock this nickname. Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti star.

Paulino Uzcudun Spanish boxer

Paulino Uzcudun Eizmendi was a Basque heavyweight boxer, who is considered to be the greatest heavyweight from Spain. Uzkudun is the Basque spelling of his last name. He was the youngest of nine siblings. In his youth, he became an aizkolari or traditional competitive Basque wood chopper. Uzcudun, known as Paulino in the United States, was the European heavyweight champion, and he fought heavyweight champions Joe Louis, Max Baer, Max Schmeling and Primo Carnera (twice) during his career. The former butcher—nicknamed "the Basque woodchopper"—retired from boxing with a record of 49 wins, 17 losses and 3 draws.

<i>The Harder They Fall</i> 1956 film

The Harder They Fall is a 1956 American boxing film noir directed by Mark Robson with a screenplay by Philip Yordan, based on Budd Schulberg's 1947 novel. It was Humphrey Bogart's final film role. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, Black and White for Burnett Guffey at the 29th Academy Awards.

Joe Gould (boxing) American boxing manager

Joe Gould was an American boxing manager best known for representing boxer James J. Braddock, dubbed "The Cinderella Man," who in 1935 upset Max Baer to become the World Heavyweight Champion. He also managed Lightweight contender Ray Miller from 1930–1933.

Professional boxing Full contact combat sport

Professional boxing, or prizefighting, is regulated, sanctioned boxing. Professional boxing bouts are fought for a purse that is divided between the boxers as determined by contract. Most professional bouts are supervised by a regulatory authority to guarantee the fighters' safety. Most high-profile bouts obtain the endorsement of a sanctioning body, which awards championship belts, establishes rules, and assigns its own judges and referees.

Frederick Ernest "Ernie" Schaaf was a professional boxer who was a heavyweight contender in the 1930s but died after a bout.

Santa Camarão Portuguese boxer

José Soares Santa, known as Santa Camarão or Zé Santa in Portugal, and as Jose Santa or Joe Santa in the United States, was a Portuguese boxer. At 2.02 m he was one of the tallest heavyweight boxers in history.

Whitey Bimstein American boxer

Whitey Bimstein was born on January 10, 1897 in New York's Lower East Side. He would be remembered for his exceptional career as a boxing trainer and cutman to world champions. Though his cutwork was usually confined to only forty seconds between rounds, it amazed Doctors for its thoroughness and professionalism.

Art Lasky American boxer

Arthur Lakofsky, also known as Art Lasky, was a heavyweight professional boxer from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Madame Bey American operator of a boxing camp

Hranoush Sidky Bey, better known as Madame Bey, also Hranuş Sıdki Hanım, ran a boxing camp for world champion boxers in Chatham Township, New Jersey, in the United States. Her life and boxing camp are documented in the book Madame Bey's: Home to Boxing Legends. Her prominence during the time she operated her boxing camp from 1923 to 1942 is documented in the thousands of press photos taken at her camp. Forgotten today, her camp's namesake was an everyday occurrence in sports sections of newspapers.


  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study
  2. "The 6th Academy Awards (1934) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved May 21, 2019.
  3. "The Prizefighter And The Lady". 1933-05-27. Retrieved 2017-03-07.
  4. Leider, Emily W. (2011). Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood. University of California Press. p. 105. ISBN   978-0520253209 . Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  5. 1 2 Schaap, Jeremy (2005). Cinderella Man: James Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 157. ISBN   0618551174 . Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  6. Hal Daniels (July 4, 2005). "Cinderella Sucker-punched Max Baer". South Florida Sun-Sentinel . Retrieved 2017-03-07.