The Set-Up (film)

The Set-Up (film)

name = The Set-Up

size =
caption = Promotional poster
director = Robert Wise
producer = Richard Goldstone
writer = Poem: Joseph Moncure March
Screenplay: Art Cohn
starring = Robert Ryan Audrey Totter George Tobias
music = C. Bakaleinikoff
cinematography = Milton R. Krasner
editing = Roland Gross
distributor = RKO Radio Pictures
released = March 29, 1949
runtime = 72 minutes
country = United States
language = English
amg_id = 1:43813
imdb_id = 0041859

"The Set-Up" (1949) is an American film noir boxing drama directed by Robert Wise and featuring Robert Ryan (a boxing champion during his college years [ [ American Film Institute] web site, "The Set-Up" page, 2007.] [ Joseph Moncure March: Poem Noir Becomes Prizefight Film] from "The Hudson Review"] ) and Audrey Totter. The screenplay was adapted by Art Cohn from a 1928 poem written by Joseph Moncure March. The film is shot in what appears to be real time.

The film tells about the boxing underworld, the tank-town circuit led by mobsters where up-and-comers get their chops and has-beens rent themselves out as human punching bags.


Stoker Thompson (Ryan) is a 35-year-old has-been boxer. His once-promising fighting career has come crashing to the end. Tiny (George Tobias), Stoker's manager, is sure he will continue to lose fights, so he takes money for a "dive" from a mobster, but is so sure that Thompson will lose that he doesn't tell the boxer about the set-up.

At the beginning of the fourth and last round of the vicious boxing match with the much younger and heavily-favored Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor), Stoker learns about the fix. Even though he learns that Little Boy (Alan Baxter), a feared gangster, is behind the set-up, Thompson refuses to give up the fight and mushes on.

In the end, he defeats Nelson, but Little Boy has Stoker's right hand broken as punishment.


In 1947, almost two decades after March's poem was published, RKO paid March a little over a thousand dollars for the rights. Although March had had nearly a decade of Hollywood writing credits during the 1930s (working on what a 2008 essay in "The Hudson Review" called "one forgotten and now unseeable film after another"), RKO did not ask him to adapt his own poem.

The screen adaptation including a number of changes from the poem. The boxer's name was changed from Pansy Jones to Stoker Thompson; his race was changed from black to white, he went from being a bigamist to being devotedly married, and Jones' beating and subsequent death on a subway track was turned into a alley beating and a shattered hand. In a commentary accompanying the DVD for the film, Robert Wise attributes the change in race to the fact that RKO had no Afro-American actors under contract, but others point out that the film did have a African American actor (James Edwards) in a minor role as a boxer, and RKO had made a similar change for "Murder, My Sweet". March later commented on the changes for an "Ebony" interview, saying::not only [did they throw] away the mainspring of the story, they evaded the whole basic issue of discrimination against the Negro.... Hollywood’s attitude to the Negro in films has been dictated all too often by box-office considerations: they are afraid of losing money in the Jim Crow South.

The prizefight in the adaptation features an exchange of blows between Stoker and his opponent that is very close to the original, though the opponent's name is changed.

Dore Schary, the uncredited executive producer who apparently got the project going at RKO before his 1948 move to MGM, is created with giving the film a real time narrative structure, three years before the device was used in "High Noon". Prior to "The Set-Up", Richard Goldstone's production credits had been limited to a half-dozen "Our Gang" comedy shorts.


* Robert Ryan as Bill "Stoker" Thompson
* Audrey Totter as Julie Thompson
* George Tobias as Tiny
* Alan Baxter as Little Boy
* Wallace Ford as Gus
* Percy Helton as Red
* Hal Baylor as "Tiger" Nelson
* Darryl Hickman as Shanley
* Kenny O'Morrison as Moore
* James Edwards as Luther Hawkins
* David Clarke as Gunboat Johnson
* Phillip Pine as Tony Souza
* Edwin Max as Dann

Additional cast
* Arthur 'Weegee' Fellig - New York photographer has a cameo as the timekeeper

Critical reception

When the film was released in its day "The New York Times" reviewed the drama and lauded the picture's screenplay and the realistic depiction of the boxing "milieu"; they wrote, "This RKO a sizzling melodrama. The men who made it have nothing good to say about the sordid phase of the business under examination and their roving, revealing camera paints an even blacker picture of the type of fight fan who revels in sheer brutality. The sweaty, stale-smoke atmosphere of an ill-ventilated smalltime arena and the ringside types who work themselves into a savage frenzy have been put on the screen in harsh, realistic terms. And the great expectations and shattered hopes which are the drama of the dressing room also have been brought to vivid, throbbing life in the shrewd direction of Robert Wise and the understanding, colloquial dialogue written into the script by Art Cohn." [ [ "The New York Times"] . Film review of "The Set-Up," March 30, 1949. Last accessed: December 14, 2007.]

Jefferson Hunter in a summer 2008 essay for "The Hudson Review", said::All through "The Set-Up", we see confirmed the oldest of truisms about film, that it tells its stories best in images, in what can be shown—a crowd’s blood lust, the boxers’ awareness of what’s coming to them in the end—as opposed to what is spoken or narrated.

Notable quote

* Red: I tell you, Tiny, you gotta let him in on it. :Tiny: How many times I gotta say it? There's no percentage in smartenin' up a chump.


* Cannes Film Festival: Best Cinematography, Milton R. Krasner; FIPRESCI Prize, Robert Wise; 1949.

* British Academy of Film and Television Arts: BAFTA Film Award, Best Film from any Source, United States; 1950.


In 2002, "Variety" magazine reported that Sidney Lumet had adapted a remake of "The Set-Up," which he would direct; Benjamin Bratt was to star as the boxer, with James Gandolfini also attached and Halle Berry in negotiations. [ [ "Variety"] . "Lumet 'Set-Up' again, Helmer fighting for dream team in remake," September 19, 2002. Last accessed: December 14, 2007.] Reports of a remake re-appeared in 2004, identifying Franc. Reyes as the director. [ [ "Movieweb"] . "Franc Reyes set to remake "The Set Up," September 17, 2004. Last accessed: December 14, 2007.] [ [ National Association of Latino Independent Producers] . "Latinos in The Industry, News" September 22, 2004. Last accessed: December 14, 2004.]


External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Avengers (2012 film) — The Avengers Teaser poster Directed by Joss Whedon Produced by Kevin …   Wikipedia

  • The Golden Compass (film) — The Golden Compass Theatrical release poster Directed by Chris Weitz Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The Mirror (1975 film) — The Mirror RUSCICO DVD cover Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky Produced by Erik Waisberg …   Wikipedia

  • The Dam Busters (film) — The Dam Busters 1955 British quad movie poster Directed by Michael Anderson Written by …   Wikipedia

  • The Killer (1989 film) — The Killer Film poster for The Killer Directed by John Woo Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The Invisible Man (film) — The Invisible Man Theatrical poster Directed by James Whale Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The Red Baron (film) — The Red Baron Cinema poster Directed by Nikolai Müllerschön Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • The 1 Second Film — flier Directed by Nirvan Mullick Produced by Col …   Wikipedia

  • The Crazies (2010 film) — The Crazies Theatrical release poster Directed by Breck Eisner Produced by Michael Agui …   Wikipedia

  • The Yacoubian Building (film) — The Yacoubian Building Theatrical release poster Directed by Marwan Hamed Produced by …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.