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Day of the Fight (1951)

After a short study of boxing's history, narrated by newscaster Douglas Edwards, we follow a day in the life of a middleweight Irish boxer named Walter Cartier.


Stanley Kubrick


Robert Rein (narration script)


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Complete credited cast:
Douglas Edwards ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Nat Fleischer Nat Fleischer ... Himself - Boxing Historian
Walter Cartier Walter Cartier ... Himself - Boxer
Vincent Cartier Vincent Cartier ... Himself - Walter's Twin Brother and Manager
Bobby James Bobby James ... Himself - Boxer
Dan Stampler Dan Stampler ... Himself - Owner of The Steak Joint


The appeal of boxing to a fan is explained before the question is asked: what is the appeal of boxing as a career? Some of the many negatives of it as a career are the inherent violence, that it only has a limited shelf life as it is a job for the young, the fact that only one percent of the six thousand professional boxers in the United States makes a good living at it, and that making a good living is predicated on an improving record which means always needing to win. It is perhaps that last point which draws many to it as a career: that want to be the best in a competitive environment. A day on the job of one such boxer is presented, twenty-four year old middleweight Walter Cartier. This day on the job will end with a bout, which will either improve his earning potential through a win, or lessen it with a loss. Some of what Walter has to go through this day are legal in ensuring he meets all the state requirements to go into the bout. But most of the day is spent on mental and ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

30 March 1951 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Day of the Fight See more »


Box Office


$3,900 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO-Pathe See more »
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Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The final sequence (the Walter Cartier vs. Bobby James bout) was filmed live on April 17, 1950 by Stanley Kubrick and Alexander Singer. See more »


Narrator: One man has skillfully, violently overcome another -- that's for the fan. But K.O., name of opponent, time, date, and place -- that's for the record book. But it's more than that in the life of a man who literally has to fight for his very existence. For him, it's the end of a working day.
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Alternate Versions

When RKO obtained the film for their "This Is America" series, they added about four minutes of new material to the beginning of the film, making the short 16 minutes long instead of the original 12 minutes. The opening four minutes with boxing historian Nat Fleischer is markedly different from the rest of the film as if features footage from different boxing matches. The opening was also modified with the credits appearing in different order and the music for the opening was also changed. The majority of the picture is the same until the end. In the last sequence when the knock out happens, the narration is once again changes. Kubrick's original cut features Douglas Edwards talking about personal sacrifice and success. The extended RKO cut removes this portion of the narration and adds new one with Nat Fleischer to better match the opening segment - this narration is about how this fight will go down into the record books. The music at the end was also changed - Gerald Fried's finale cue was moved earlier to match the beginning of the new narration, but because it starts sooner, it doesn't line up with the ending. Thus the new end title card (which adds This is America to the bottom of the card) plays in silence. See more »


Referenced in Killer's Kiss (1955) See more »

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User Reviews

Kubrick's first (and very rarely seen) movie is a portent of his later films and success.
27 April 2000 | by Bowie718See all my reviews

"This is a fight fan. Fan: short for fanatic" (first lines).

While Stanley Kubrick was working for Look Magazine back in the late '40s and early '50s, he came across a photo shoot of a boxing match involving a Walter Cartier. The article, entitled "Prizefighter," was published January 18th, 1949. A year later, Kubrick contacted Cartier, asking him if he would like to be in a short documentary for the declining RKO-Pathé. Cartier agreed, and Kubrick began, in 1950, with what would become his first film ever.

The story itself is told in three parts (much like the later Full Metal Jacket [1987]), which take up about 5 minutes apiece. The dialogue, spoken by veteran newsman Douglas Edwards, is very noir (example: "It's a living. For some, not much of a living.") The first part regards boxing and the fan. It portrays the walks of life boxing comes from. It ends when Natt Fleischer, a boxing historian, is shown looking through a book of boxing statistics. Kubrick's photojournalistic upbringing is showcased here; the framing of the book is done in a nice, storytelling style. Kubrick obviously knows what he's doing here. We then spotlight one particular boxer in this book: Walter Cartier. The second and third parts are dedicated to a single day in his life: the day of a middleweight fight (April 17th, 1950). The second part is his life leading up to the fight (from 6:00 A.M. to the arrival at the arena at 8:00 P.M.) It's a nice sequencing of events, beginning with a shot of a program attached to a pole advertising the fight (a shot we will see again in Killer's Kiss [1955]) and then showing Walter himself. It shows him waking up, going to communion ("in case something should go wrong tonight,") eating breakfast, undergoing his health examination, playing with his dog. As the fight draws near, we see the "long last look in the mirror" as Walter examines his face. The sequence will be perfectly transcribed to Killer's Kiss (1955) in a few years. The third part (from 8:00 P.M. to the fight at 10:00 P.M.), begins when Walter arrives at Laurel Gardens. The main focus is on the "big wait." We see the transformation Walter undergoes from normal man to fighting machine. We see his opponent, Bobby James, for a few seconds. When Walter finally goes to the ring, we reach the real action of the short. The fight (which is less than a round and was shot live) is brutal, and seems to be echoed repeatedly in Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980). If you look closely during the fight, you can see men standing at ringside with cameras. These are most likely Kubrick and assistant director Alexander Singer (who was later assistant producer for The Killing [1956]). As the fight reaches the KO, the camera focuses on crowd reaction (one shot is of Singer's fiancée, for whom Kubrick did wedding photography). When the fight is over, and all is said and done, the 16-minute short concludes with "For him, it's the end of a working day." Music swells, the end.

Everything that could go well about this film did. The story is excellently planned out, the narration is full of emotion and energy, the music is terrific (Gerald Fried, who met Kubrick through Singer, would go on to do the music for Kubrick's first four feature films) and Cartier and entourage are people with whom one can connect (although none of them, excepting the ring announcer, has a single line of dialogue). I have seen this film multiple times, and I plan on seeing it many, many more. I recommend this film to any fan of boxing, documentaries and expecially hardcore Kubrick fans (that is, if you can get your hands on it). This films gets a 10 out of 10.

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