The Harder They Fall

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For the episode of the BBC sitcom Porridge, see The Harder They Fall (Porridge).
The Harder They Fall
The Harder They Fall Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Robson
Produced by Philip Yordan
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Based on The Harder They Fall 
by Budd Schulberg
Starring Humphrey Bogart
Rod Steiger
Jan Sterling
Music by Hugo Friedhofer
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Edited by Jerome Thoms
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • May 9, 1956 (1956-05-09) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,350,000 (US)[1]

The Harder They Fall is a 1956 film noir directed by Mark Robson, featuring Humphrey Bogart in his last film. It was written by Philip Yordan and based on the 1947 novel of the same name by Budd Schulberg.

The drama tells a "thinly disguised à clef account of the Primo Carnera boxing scandal,"[2] with the challenger based on Carnera and the champ based on Max Baer; previously both Baer and Carnera had starred in The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933), in which Carnera is the world champ and Baer is his challenger. Bogart's character, Eddie Willis, is based on the career of boxing writer and event promoter Harold Conrad.


Sportswriter Eddie Willis is broke after the newspaper he works for goes under. He is hired by crooked boxing promoter Nick Benko to publicize his new boxer, a huge, but slow-witted and untalented Argentinian named Toro Moreno.

Unbeknownst to Toro and his friend and manager Luís Agrandi, all of his fights are fixed to make the public believe that he is for real. Eddie begins to feel guilty about his work, especially after he comes to like the good-natured giant. The unhappy boxer wants to quit and go home, but Eddie talks him out of it.

Finally Benko arranges for Toro to fight the heavyweight champ, Buddy Brannen. Knowing Toro has no chance, Benko places large bets secretly against his fighter as he had planned all along. Toro loses as expected and gets brutally beaten in the process.

Afterwards, Eddie discovers that Benko has rigged the accounting so that Toro ends up getting paid only a pittance. Ashamed, Eddie sends Toro home to Argentina with Eddie's own share of the proceeds. When confronted by Benko, Eddie defies him, then begins writing an exposé about corruption in the boxing world.


Boxers appearing in the film:


The film was originally released with two different endings: in one, Eddie Willis demanded that boxing be banned altogether, while in the other, Willis merely insisted that there be a federal investigation of the prizefighting business. The video version contains the "harder" ending, while most television prints end with the "softer" message.[3]

The film was Bogart's last film; he died early in 1957, the year following this motion picture's release. At the time of filming in late 1955 he was already seriously ill with what would soon be diagnosed as esophageal cancer. Occasionally inaudible in some takes, some of his lines are reported to have been dubbed in post-production by Paul Frees, who also appears in the film as a priest.


Critical response[edit]

The film was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.[4]

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."[5]

More recently, film critic 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."[6]

Notable quotes[edit]

  • Nick Benko: The people, Eddie, the people! Don't tell me about the people, Eddie. The people sit in front of their little TVs with their bellies full of beer and fall asleep. What do the people know, Eddie? Don't tell me about the people, Eddie!
  • Willis to Benko: That man lies in the hospital with a broken jaw! He took the worst beating I ever saw in my life! You want me to go back there and tell him that all he gets is a lousy $49.07 for a broken jaw? How much would YOU take?
  • Franky: (as Toro is praying on his knees) That only works if you can fight!
  • Art Leavitt (to Eddie, at a party for the press before Toro's first fight, raising a glass in a toast): "L'chaim!" (to life)
  • Eddie: (misunderstanding): "Thanks, I'll need it."


  1. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957.
  2. ^ Erickson, Hal. The Harder They Fall at AllMovie
  3. ^ Erickson, Hal. Ibid.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Harder They Fall". Retrieved 08-09-2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Crowther, Bosley, The New York Times, film review, May 10, 1956. Accessed: August 9, 2013.
  6. ^ Schwartz, Dennis, Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, December 17, 2004. Accessed: August 9, 2013.

External links[edit]