Thursday, April 9, 2015

Review: The Harder They Fall (1956)

Bogart and Steiger were robbed at the Oscars!

Directed by Mark Robson
Produced by Philip Yordan
Written by Philip Yordan (from Budd Schulberg's novel)
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger, Jan Sterling and Mike Lane


In his final film role, Humphrey Bogart stars as Eddie Willis, an unemployed sports writer in need of a good paycheck. When Nick Benko (Steiger), a crooked boxing promoter, offers him a job, Eddie accepts, and he begins to mold the rise of a contender: a large Argentinian named Toro Moreno (Lane), who can barely take a punch, let alone give one. Under Benko's command, Eddie helps promote Toro as a strong, fearless prize fighter. Benko fixes all of Toro's fights, and Eddie tries to keep Toro happy, confident, and in the press' good graces. Everything is hyped up, until Toro contends for the title. This reveals the seedy underbelly of the boxing world, and forces Eddie to decide where his loyalties lie - to a paycheck or to a young, innocent foreigner being exploited.

The legacy of this film is Bogart's swan song, but it's also a great movie. The back dealings of boxing provide compelling material for this film noir, which features fantastic performances from Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger. Bogart had a knack for playing characters who flirted with right and wrong, and with Eddie he gives one of his finest performances. He's hard, jaded, and cynical, while also caring, loyal, and virtuous. It's arguably the best he ever was. Steiger, meanwhile, delivers a blistering portrayal of a greedy, deceitful, and heartless character, and he does it with charisma and a commanding presence. How he and Bogart were completely ignored on the awards circuit is a mystery. Still, their work lives on, and it's the main reason to see this film. Their performances just make it sing. Really, it's one of the year's best films.

Oscar Tally: Nominated for Best Cinematography (B&W)


  1. YES!!! Steiger and Bogart outdid themselves. Brilliant performances (and Fisti nominees!). So glad you finally saw this...and loved it!

    1. This was great! Steiger and Bogart rocked. I'll probably buy this one at some point, as it's very rewatchable.

  2. This is a terrific film, it was one of the last late period Bogart films I managed to catch up with, I still have Deadline find, and it's great that he was able to go out on such a high note. Both he and Steiger are superior and the under rated Jan Sterling is also very good in a change of pace role for her as Bogie's devoted wife.

    1. Yeah, it's fitting that Bogart gave one of his best performances in his final film. Deadline - U.S.A. is good, though I've not seen it in years and my memory of it is a little foggy.