Movie Review: Day of the Fight (1951)

1 Stars
Day of the Fight (1951)

Day of the Fight (1951)


Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Douglas Edwards, Nat Fleischer, Walter Cartier

Synopsis: American-Irish middleweight boxer Walter Cartier prepares for his next fight.


The 22-year-old Stanley Kubrick’s film career got underway in 1951 with Day of the Fight, a rather uneventful documentary inspired by a photo-shoot he did for Look magazine in 1949.   The short film, just 16 minutes long, follows promising middleweight boxer Walter Cartier and his identical twin brother (and manager) Vincent on the day on which Cartier is due to fight.   The problem is, young Walter and his brother spend the day doing a lot of nothing for most of the time, which doesn’t exactly make for riveting cinema.   Although they both seem to be likeable chaps (thanks, perhaps, to the fact that we never get to hear them speak), as they walk side by side past posters for Palisades Park on a near-deserted street, the brothers look like a couple of middle-ranking gangland enforcers.  However, the brothers aren’t on their way to collect protection money from frightened shopkeepers – they’re on their way to take Holy Communion.

We don’t get to hear the Cartier brothers talk because Day of the Fight is essentially a silent movie with narration by boxing historian Nat Fleischer and some post-production sound dubbing.   Fleischer’s narration stresses the frustrations of a long day’s wait, although Cartier doesn’t seem too bothered as he tucks into a meal at his local café or plays with his dog, and the film gives little insight into Cartier’s character.   The main event, Cartier’s bout with Bobby James, is saved for the last couple,of minutes, and are disappointingly pedestrian, although this might be due more to access restrictions than any shortcomings on Kubrick’s part.   Although it has a distinct newsreel feel about it, Kubrick’s choice of shots shows that he already had a highly developed visual sense thanks to his experience as a photographer. Day of the Fight marks an interesting, if unremarkable, debut from one of the giants of the cinema.

(Reviewed 25th May 2016)

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