Body and Soul (1947 film)

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Body and Soul
Body and Soul 1947 movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Rossen
Produced byBob Roberts
Screenplay byAbraham Polonsky
StarringJohn Garfield
Lilli Palmer
Hazel Brooks
Anne Revere
William Conrad
Music byHugo Friedhofer
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Edited byFrancis Lyon (sup)
Robert Parrish
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 9, 1947 (1947-11-09)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,250,000 (US rentals)[2]
$4,700,000 (total)[1]

Body and Soul is a 1947 American film noir sports drama directed by Robert Rossen and starring John Garfield, Lilli Palmer, Hazel Brooks, Anne Revere, and William Conrad.[3] The screenplay by Abraham Polonsky is partly based on the 1939 film Golden Boy.[4] With cinematography by James Wong Howe, the film is considered by some to be one of the best films about boxing.[5][6] It is also a cautionary tale about the lure of money—and how it can derail even a strong common man in his pursuit of success. The film uses the song Body and Soul (1930 song) for the main musical theme and underscoring throughout.


Charley Davis, against the wishes of his mother, becomes a boxer. As he becomes more successful the fighter becomes surrounded by shady characters, including an unethical promoter named Roberts, who tempts the man with a number of vices. Charley finds himself faced with increasingly difficult choices.



Critical response[edit]

When the film was released, critic Bosley Crowther praised the film, writing, "Body and Soul has up and done it, with interest and excitement to spare, and we heartily recommend it in its present exhibition at the Globe ... Still [Abraham Polonsky has] written his story with such flavor and such slashing fidelity to the cold and greedy nature of the fight game, and Robert Rossen has directed it with such an honest regard for human feelings and with such a searching and seeing camera, that any possible resemblance to other fight yarns, living or dead, may be gratefully allowed."[7]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz discussed that the film had a definite sociopolitical point of view and praised Garfield's work. He, wrote, "Robert Rossen's Body and Soul becomes more than a boxing and film noir tale, as screenwriter Abraham Polonsky makes this into a socialist morality drama where the pursuit of money becomes the focus that derails the common man in his quest for success ... Garfield is seen as a victim of the ruthless capitalistic system that fixes everything including athletic events, as the little guy is always at the mercy of the big operator. It's the kind of liberalism that was common in the dramas made in the 1930s. It's more a film about corruption and the presence of violence everywhere in America rather than a straight boxing film ... Body and Soul viewed at this late date lacks much relevancy and now only seems gripping because of Garfield's gritty performance, and not because of the intense script that once made waves in powerful circles.[8]

TV Guide comments: "The fight sequences, in particular, brought a kind of realism to the genre that had never before existed (James Wong Howe wore skates and rolled around the ring shooting the fight scenes with a hand-held camera). A knockout on all levels."[9]


Francis Lyon and Robert Parrish won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. John Garfield was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Abraham Polonsky was nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. The film was voted as the Greatest Boxing Movie Ever in 2014 by the Houston Boxing Hall Of Fame.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ a b Variety 14 July 1948 p 12
  2. ^ "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p 63
  3. ^ Body and Soul at the TCM Movie Database.
  4. ^ Boddy, Kasia (2013). Boxing: A Cultural History. Reaktion Books. p. 88. ISBN 9781861897022.
  5. ^;[by whom?]
  6. ^
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, "Exciting Story of Prizefighting, Starring John Garfield, at Globe", November 10, 1947. Accessed: July 16, 2013.
  8. ^ Schwartz, Dennis Schwartz Archived 2008-05-08 at the Wayback Machine. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, March 23, 2004. Access: July 16, 2013.
  9. ^ TV Guide. Staff, film review. Access: July 16, 2013.
  10. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External links[edit]