Flesh and Fury (1952)

Tony Curtis, Jan Sterling, Mona Freeman, Wallace Ford,
A deaf boxer is exploited by a gold-digging blonde.
  • 6.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • William Alland, Bernard Gordon, Writer:
  • Joseph Pevney, Director:
  • Leonard Goldstein, Producer:

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7 / 10

Curtis, Sterling shine in Joseph Pevney's solid boxing story

No other sport has given rise to as many superior movies as our most barbaric one, prizefighting. Joseph Pevney's Flesh and Fury may fall short of superior, but it's well above average and shows its principal actors in the most flattering light: Tony Curtis does proud in one of his first starring roles, while Jan Sterling contributes possibly her finest performance.

Curtis (in the pouty fulsomeness of his young manhood) boxes for $25 purses when he catches the eye of Sterling, a bloodthirsty and avaricious ringside habitué. The only catch is that Curtis is deaf and dumb, but that suits Sterling just swell - his disability makes him more vulnerable to her control. She pushes his career forward too fast for the liking of his manager (Wallace Ford), but Curtis seems all but unstoppable.

Enter Mona Freeman, reporter from Panorama magazine, to do a feature on the hearing-impaired welterweight. It's her kind of story; her father, a wealthy Long Island architect, was deaf, too, so she learned how to sign - a skill Curtis has let lapse as it calls attention to his shortcoming. But exposed to a world of greater possibilities, Curtis undergoes an operation that restores his hearing.

There's the inevitable canker, however. Curtis' self-assurance in the ring came in part from his obliviousness to the din of the crowd. What's more, the pretentious babble he hears at a party in Freeman's posh mansion convinces him that he has more in common with the strident Sterling than with the privileged Freeman (the William Alland/Bernard Gordon script shows a firm grasp of class frictions). He decides to return to boxing, even though his doctor has warned him that he risks losing his newly regained hearing....

Joesph Pevney remains an overlooked director. He started out as an actor (he debuted in Nocturne as the peripatetic piano player) but soon moved behind the camera, helming a number of offbeat and compulsively watchable movies in and around the noir cycle: Shakedown, Iron Man, Meet Danny Wilson, Female on the Beach, The Midnight Story. In the late '50s, he made the move to television, directing a number of classic series. Not everybody who ended up working for the small screen did so because of mediocrity; some, like Pevney, were in demand because of their solid track record - because of movies like Flesh and Fury.

6 / 10

Jan Sterling Shows A Lot Of Flesh Too

Tony Curtis plays a deaf boxer whom mercenary Jan Sterling takes an interest in. Despite the fears of kindly manager Wallace Ford, she wants him to hit the big time and pay off as soon as possible, even if it means facing dirty fighters who will cripple him. When Mona Freeman turns up to interview Curtis for her magazine, she takes a happier view of the young man; her father had also been deaf, and Curtis spends a lot of movie time wearing only boxing trunks.

Universal was putting Curtis in a lot of movies in which his New York street accent did not suit his Arabian caliph roles very well. Making him deaf and mute in this one allowed him to show off his physique and hair that was perfect after having his head battered for six rounds. Joseph Pevney, as always, directs competently.

Jan Sterling may be best remembered for playing low-class, mercenary dumb bells, but it was an act. She was brought up at the upper end of New York society, travelled the world as a child, was instructed by private tutors, and by the time she hit Broadway in the late 1930s, was playing aristocratic English women. A role in the touring company of BORN YESTERDAY brought her to Hollywood's attention. After a supporting role in JOHNNY BELINDA, she worked in some noirs and polished this sort of character. She died in 2004 at age 82.

7 / 10

boxing, love triangle, star on the rise

Amateur boxer Paul Callan (Tony Curtis) is deaf. He falls for Sonya Bartow (Jan Sterling) but she's a selfish gold-digger and he has no money. Retired manager Jack 'Pop' Richardson (Wallace Ford) signs him up. Sonya has him wrapped around her little finger until the arrival of sweet magazine writer Ann Hollis (Mona Freeman) who is looking to write a story about him. She actually knows sign language due to her successful deaf father.

Curtis delivers an interesting performance even when he's not saying anything. His deaf and shy character limits his acting early on but he is able express a lot with his face. As for the boxing, there is a good amount of energy although the realism is held back with the use of some close-ups to fake the punches. This is a really nice boxing and love triangle movie with a super star in the making.

7 / 10

His silent world

In one of his roles on the way up Tony Curtis played a deaf mute killer withouta line of dialog in Johnny Stool Pigeon. Someone at Universal must have remembered that performance when Flesh And Fury was cast. Tony Curtis showssome real acting chops in this one conveying all kinds of emotions with very fewwords.

Curtis plays a deaf mute boxer who was doing club dates to earn some dollars.One night after flattening an opponent he makes two acquaintances. One isfight manager Wallace Ford who signs him up, The other is brassy dame JanSterling who takes over all kind of other management of him. He may be a deaf mute, but he's Tony Curtis.

But Curtis is introduced to a different world when magazine writer Mona Freeman comes to his camp. She's from real society and Curtis gets a taste of thar, but he's terrified of not being able to fit in.

Curtis and Freeman do well, but Jan Sterling is the one you'll remember fromFlesh And Fury. She gets one well deserved comeuppance in the end. Kudosalso go to Wallace Ford for his work as the sympathetic and square boxingmanager.

Flesh And Fury is a must for fans of Tony Curtis and Jan Sterling.

6 / 10

Not Film Noir

Yes, there is a "bad" blonde babe in this film who exploits the innocent pugilist main character, but otherwise this story falls more squarely in the realm of melodrama than film noir. Still worth a look, especially for the mid-50s milieu of the grimy boxing palaces that would be apotheosized thirty years later in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull.

(EDIT, Feb '22): When I wrote the above the film still had "Film Noir" included on the main page as a genre' tag for the film. It has since been removed. And no, I didn't request the change...evidently somebody else agreed with me.