Charlie Davis (John Garfield) is a smart, tough, impetuous kid who grows up on New York City’s East Side, the son of a candy shop owner (Art Smith). Unable to pay protection money to local racketeers, his father is killed in a bomb attack, leaving his mother (Anne Revere) penniless. Proud and bitter, Davis decides to save his widowed mother from poverty by becoming a professional prizefighter. After initial success as an amateur, he brings his friend and trainer Shorty Pulaski (Joseph Pevney) together with conniving manager Quinn (William Conrad) and a crooked fight promoter (Llyod Goff). Charlie’s sweet loyal girlfriend Peg (Lili Palmer) is soon replaced by Alice, a flashy showgirl (Hazel Brooks) as his star rises. Released thru United Artists, BODY AND SOUL was Robert Rossen’s second film as a director. Rossen, who later directed THE HUSTLER (1961), teamed up with Abraham Polonsky, a left-liberal writer with an anti-establishment reputation, who was familiar with the style and themes of film noir. The story is often told in flashbacks, with Hazel Brooks as the quintessential femme-fatale. Powerful and dramatic, the film depicts a dog-eat-dog world, where everything and everyone has their price, and where sudden death is an occupational hazard. Using boxing as a metaphor, the filmakers try to present a message about the dangers of capitalistic greed, and advance the idea that crime and corruption are the inevitable results of the American entrepenurial system. Robert Rossen’s BODY AND SOUL was the first of a series of intense, socially-critical boxing noirs that included the Robert Wise/Robert Ryan film THE SET-UP (1949), and Mark Robson’s CHAMPION (1949), with Kirk Douglas. After making another cinematic diatribe about the dangers of capitalism, FORCE OF EVIL (1949), both Garfield and Polonsky landed on the blacklist of the House on Un-American Activities Committee, and were banned from working in Hollywood. Hounded and reviled in the press, and shunned by the public, talented actor John Garfield died in 1952, at the age of 39, due to acute heart problems. BODY AND SOUL is a film noir favorite of director Martin Scorcese, and was used as a template for the Robert DeNiro film RAGING BULL (1980).
NOTE: BODY AND SOUL is known in Germany as HUNT FOR MILLIONS.