The Harder They Fall

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 marked Humphrey Bogart's final film role.[2] It received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, Black and White for Burnett Guffey at the 29th Academy Awards.

The Harder They Fall
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Robson
Produced byPhilip Yordan
Screenplay byPhilip Yordan
Based onThe Harder They Fall by Budd Schulberg
StarringHumphrey Bogart
Rod Steiger
Jan Sterling
Music byHugo Friedhofer
CinematographyBurnett Guffey
Edited byJerome Thoms
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • May 9, 1956 (1956-05-09) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,350,000 (US)[1]


Sportswriter Eddie Willis is broke after the newspaper he works for goes under. He is hired by boxing promoter Nick Benko. He recruits Toro Moreno, an Argentinian boxer. Unbeknownst to Toro and his manager Luís Agrandi, all of his fights are fixed to make the public believe that he is for real. Toro challenges Gus Dundee, a champion boxer who dies of a brain hemorrhage as a result of their fight, before losing to Buddy Brannen. Eddie hesitates to promote Toro. Despite the misgivings of his wife, Benko convinces him otherwise, due to Eddie's attempted pay-day. Feeling guilty, Toro wishes to return to Argentina, but Eddie convinces him to work together. In the meantime, Benko plans to use Toro and places the bet against any champion boxers. Eddie teaches Toro on how to hit one of the handlers. While fighting with Brannen, Toro ends up having a broken jaw. When Eddie takes the money owed to him and Toro, he finds out that Benko has rigged the accounting and Toro earns $49.07. Ashamed, Eddie sends Toro home to Argentina with their share of the proceeds, $26,000. Eddie writes an exposé about the corruption.



In early 1956, Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and he died on January 14, 1957. Steiger recalled the actor's professionalism during production, even while coping with the disease:

"Bogey and I got on very well. Unlike some other stars, when they had closeups, you might have been relegated to a two-shot, or cut out altogether. Bogey didn't play those games. He was a professional and had tremendous authority. He'd come in exactly at 9am and leave at precisely 6pm. I remember once walking to lunch in between takes and seeing Bogey on the lot. I shouldn't have because his work was finished for the day. I asked him why he was still on the lot, and he said, 'They want to shoot some retakes of my closeups because my eyes are too watery'. A little while later, after the film, somebody came up to me with word of Bogey's death. Then it struck me. His eyes were watery because he was in pain with the cancer. I thought: 'How dumb can you be, Rodney'!"[3]

The film was released with two different endings: one where Eddie Willis (inspired by Harold Conrad) demanded that boxing be banned altogether, and the other where he merely insisted that there be a federal investigation into boxing. The video version contains the "harder" ending, while most television prints end with the "softer" message. Occasionally inaudible in a take, some lines are reported to have been dubbed in post-production by Paul Frees.[4]


Critical response

The film premiered at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.[5] The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther liked the film, writing "It's a brutal and disagreeable story, probably a little far-fetched, and without Mr. Schulberg's warmest character—the wistful widow who bestowed her favors on busted pugs. But with all the arcana of the fight game that Mr. Yordan and Mr. Robson have put into it—along with their bruising, brutish fight scenes—it makes for a lively, stinging film."[6]

Dennis Schwartz wrote "The unwell Bogie's last film is not a knockout, but his hard-hitting performance is terrific as a has-been sports journalist out of desperation taking a job as a publicist for a fight fixer in order to get a bank account ... The social conscience film is realistic, but fails to be shocking or for that matter convincing."[7]


Primo Carnera sued Columbia for $1.5 million in damages, alleging that the film was based on him and invaded his privacy.[8] The lawsuit was not successful.

See also


  1. 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957.
  2. Erickson, Hal. The Harder They Fall at AllMovie
  3. Fantle & Johnson 2009, p. 140.
  4. Erickson, Hal. Ibid.
  5. "Festival de Cannes: The Harder They Fall".
  6. Crowther, Bosley, The New York Times, film review, May 10, 1956. Accessed: August 9, 2013.
  7. Schwartz, Dennis, Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 17, 2004. Accessed: August 9, 2013.
  8. CARNERA CHARGES STUDIO WITH FOUL: Ex-Boxer Sues Columbia for $1,500,000 Damages Over 'The Harder They Fall' Milland Signed for 'Stockade' Of Local Origin By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 01 May 1956: 37.


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