“Day of the Fight”


“Day of the Fight”
   16 minutes, April 1951.
   Producer: Jay Bonafield; Director: Stanley Kubrick;
   Screenplay: Robert Rein, based on Kubrick’s pictorial for Look magazine (January 18, 1949); Assistant Director: Alexander Singer; Sound: Kubrick; Editor: Julian Bergman and Kubrick; Cast: Douglas Edwards (narrator, voice), Vincent Cartier (Walter’s twin brother), Walter Cartier (himself ), Nate Fleischer (boxing historian), Bobby James (Walter’s opponent), Kubrick (man at ringside with camera), Alexander Singer (man at ringside with camera), and Judy Singer (female fan in crowd)
   STANLEY KUBRICK learned from his high school friend Alex Singer, who was then working for The March of Time, that each documentary short made for that newsreel series was budgeted for $40,000. As a consequence, Kubrick set out to show that he could produce a short documentary for far less money. He completed his first short film,“Day of the Fight,” for under $4,000. His subject was middleweight boxer Walter Cartier, who had also been featured in a picture story Kubrick had photographed for LOOK MAGAZINE. He rented a 35 mm Eyemo camera to make the 16-minute film.
   The documentary begins with a neon sign announcing its topic:“Boxing Tonight!”As a middleaged fan purchases his ticket and is ushered to his seat, narrator Douglas Edwards wonders, “What do fight fans—or, rather, fanatics—seek?”The answer so this question is voiced over action scenes of boxers boxing:“They seek action, the triumph of force over force. But why do they—the fighters—do it? There is the prestige of the winners; but it is also a living. ” Kubrick then introduces “one fighter out of the record book,” and goes on to document a day in the life of Walter Cartier, from early morning to later that night, when the fight takes place at 10 P. M. Walter gets up at 6 A. M. to go to early morning Mass, because “Cartier doesn’t place all of his faith in his hands. ”
   The film is more about the waiting and the preparation for the fight than the fight itself. At one point, before leaving for the arena, Cartier examines his face in a mirror, as if wondering what kind of image the mirror might reflect the next morning. Finally, he is at the arena, getting ready to enter the ring. The crowd cheers as the fighters are introduced, and the camera shifts to the streets, where a young man (Stanley Kubrick) is listening to his portable radio. When the fight begins, Kubrick shoots the action from numerous angles, editing the shots together in rapid succession to suggest the intensity if not the brevity of the contest. Cartier knocks out his opponent, and then, as he is led by his manager back to the dressing room, the narrator concludes, matter of factly, “A day in the life of a man who fights for his existence, the end of another working day. ” Neither the sport nor the boxer is glamorized. Having made the film for $3,900, Kubrick managed to sell it for $4,000 to RKO Pathé News for its This Is America series. He had proved himself as a filmmaker and had realized a modest profit. When RKO advanced him $1,500 to make his second short documentary, THE FLYING PADRE (1951),Kubrick lost interest in still photography and quit his job for Look magazine. He was ready for his second career.
   See also Fried, Gerald.
   J. M. W. and G. D. P.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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