11 February 2014 | bkoganbing
He came to brawl
This biographical film of Jack Dempsey based on a work by his daughter more or less hits the high points of his colorful life and no coincidence it came out the year the great champ died. No criticism from the subject himself.
Born William Harrison Dempsey and known as Harry to his blood family, he adopted the name Jack after the middleweight champion whose life straddled the 19th and 20th centuries. His killer instinct in the ring was hewed in the hobo jungles where he lived when went out on his own to become a prizefighter. Dempsey never came to a boxing match, his fights were always Pier 6 brawls.
Treat Williams fits the conception I had of Jack Dempsey from the many things I read about him. As does Sam Waterston as Jack 'Doc' Kearns who was his manager. In real life they never quite reconciled as you see at the end of this film. In fact Kearns disparaged Dempsey after they split for the rest of his life. Kearns later on managed another icon of the Roaring Twenties Middleweight Champion Mickey Walker who was another brawler like Dempsey.
Best in the film however is Sally Kellerman as Dempsey first wife who was a prostitute whom he married while still in the tank towns as fighter. She split with Dempsey, but came back with a vengeance to smear his name in the hopes of being bought off. Talk about a woman scorned.
Dempsey's second wife was silent movie queen Estelle Taylor who if you believe Doc Kearns got him too used to the good life. When he faced Gene Tunney for the first time in 1926, Dempsey had not had a title defense since 1923. Before that he defended the title with a decent average of fights. No boxing commission in the world today would allow that. Taylor is played by Victoria Tennant.
Not a great film, but both Williams and Waterston are great in their parts and Sally Kellerman is outstanding.