The Square Ring

The Square Ring is a 1953 British film produced by Michael Relph, directed by Basil Dearden and made at Ealing Studios. It stars Jack Warner, Robert Beatty and Bill Owen.[1] The film, based on a stage play by Ralph Peterson,[2][3] centres on one night at a fairly seedy boxing venue and tells the different stories of the various fighters and spectators.

The Square Ring
Directed byBasil Dearden
Produced byMichael Relph
Written byAlec Grahame
Based onThe Square Ring (play)
by Ralph Peterson
StarringJack Warner
Robert Beatty
Joan Collins
Maxwell Reed
Kay Kendall
Bernadette O'Farrell
Bill Owen
Music byDock Mathieson
CinematographyOtto Heller
Edited byPeter Bezencenet
Distributed byGFD (UK)
Release date
  • 13 July 1953 (1953-07-13) (UK)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Five stories that take place mainly in the locker room prior to and after various bouts during a single evening at a cheap boxing stadium: an ex champion, Docker Starkie, trying to make a comeback; Eddie Burke, a new boxer on the way up; Harry Coombes, a future champion; Rick Martell, a crooked fighter planning to throw a fight; Sailor Johnson, a punch drunk ‘has-been’; and Rowdie Rawlings, a black boxer. Danny Felton is the dressing room attendant who has seen fighters come and go.[2][3]


Original 1952 Play

The film was based on a 1952 play with the same name by Sydney-born radio writer Ralph Peterson who arrived in London only the year before.[4]


He wrote it over a three-month period. Peterson was inspired by material he had learned from writing the 1950 radio play Come Out Fighting, set in the world of boxing.[5][6]

He sent the play to Anthony Quayle, who he had met in Sydney, who agreed to put it on.[7][8]


Film rights were bought by Michael Balcon at Ealing and John Mills was announced as star, with Basil Dearden to direct and Michael Relph to produce.[9]

Eventually Mills dropped out and was replaced by Canadian actor Robert Beatty.[10] He had no boxing experience so he trained for two weeks in preparation for the role.[11]


Critical reception was mixed. One review called the film "uneven", accusing it of "veering between comedy and tragedy".[12]

1954 Novel

Peterson adapted the play into a 1954 novel.

1959 TV Adaptation

The play was adapted for British TV in 1959 with Sean Connery.[13]

1960 TV adaptation

The Square Ring
Based onplay by Ralph Peterson
Distributed byABC-2 (Sydney)
Release date
20 April 1960 (Sydney, live)
Running time
90 mins

The play was also adapted for Australian television in 1960. It was recorded live in Sydney.

Sydney boxing trainer Ern McQuillan was the technical advisor for the story. Joe Jenkins, who appeared often on television as a dancer, makes his acting debut as Rowdie Rawlings.[14]


  • Don Barkham as Eddie Burke
  • Guy Doleman as Harry Coombes[15]
  • Jack Fegan as Docker Starkie
  • Ken Goodlet as Sailor Johnson
  • Joe Jenkins as Rowdie Rawling
  • Owen Weingott as Rick Martell
  • Edward Hepple as Danny Felton
  • Al Thomas as the stadium manager
  • Ben Gabriel
  • Louis Wishart
  • Max Osbiston

1965 Radio Adaptation

The play was adapted for radio in 1965.


  • Dan Crosby
  • Max Osbiston
  • John Gray
  • Edward Hepple
  • John Armstrong
  • Robert MacDara
  • Alastair Duncan
  • Richard Meikle
  • Ben Gabriel
  • James Congdon.

See also


  1. Warner, Jack; Beatty, Robert; Owen, Bill; Reed, Maxwell (28 January 1955), The Square Ring, retrieved 20 March 2017
  2. "The Square Ring | BFI | BFI". Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  3. "The Square Ring Trailer, Reviews and Schedule for The Square Ring |". Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  4. "LONDON ACCLAIMS AUSTRALIAN'S PLAY". The Sydney Morning Herald (35, 831). New South Wales, Australia. 23 October 1952. p. 3. Retrieved 8 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  5. Come Out Fighting at AustLit
  6. "Boxing Story for AR Serial Run". The Age (29612). Victoria, Australia. 24 March 1950. p. 1 (THE AGE RADIO SUPPLEMENT). Retrieved 18 February 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  7. "Sydney Writer's London Stage Hit". The Sunday Herald (Sydney) (196). New South Wales, Australia. 26 October 1952. p. 12. Retrieved 8 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.
  8. "Australian writer's success". The Australian Women's Weekly. 20, (26). Australia, Australia. 26 November 1952. p. 31. Retrieved 8 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  9. "Adelaide man's play to be filmed – John Mills to star". The News. 59, (9, 142). South Australia. 26 November 1952. p. 5. Retrieved 8 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  10. "Robert Beatty in boxing picture". The Mail. 42, (2, 121). South Australia. 31 January 1953. p. 3 (SUNDAY MAGAZINE). Retrieved 8 May 2016 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  11. "Film May End A 50-Year Jinx". The Sunday Herald. Sydney. 21 June 1953. p. 14. Retrieved 10 July 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  12. Radio Times. Guide to Films (2004). p.1328
  13. 1959 British TV version at AustLit
  14. "Drama of the Ring". Sydney Morning Herald. 18 April 1960. p. 19.
  15. "Big TV cover of the Rome Olympics". The Australian Women's Weekly. 28, ([?]). Australia, Australia. 3 August 1960. p. 55. Retrieved 18 February 2019 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
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