Max Baer, Primo Carnera and The Prizefighter and the Lady


In the early days of film, fight scenes were “staged” but real. They didn’t learn to fake their punches for the camera until the early 30’s and even then used that type of filming trick sparingly. In this case, where real Boxers were used for the Prizefighter and the Lady, there was no doubt that these matches were going to be real but choreographed. The film climaxes with a heavily hyped fight between Max Baer and Primo Carnera. Primo was the real-life World Heavyweight Champion and Max (the star of the film) was in real-life, his main contender for the title. The shooting of this scene was a major event on the set. People came from far and wide to watch the thrilling fight being filmed. Former Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey was an added treat playing the referee.The Prizefighter and the Lady Stunt

The fight scenes were so real, that Max knocked out 2 teeth during one of the “staged” fights in this film. Interestingly, Max Baer beat Primo Carnera in real-life the very next year for the World Heavyweight title, knocking him down a record 11 times in what was written about later as a major beating.  Myrna Loy also admitted in an interview later that Max studied Primo’s boxing techniques intently during the film and claimed that he used this “scouting” knowledge to beat him for the title. It’s also interesting to note that Max did not wear a robe with his name on it for the real title fight, he wore the robe he used in this film with his character Steve Morgan’s name on the back.  People said he did this to try and get in Primo’s head.  The Prizefighter and the Lady was Max Baer’s first acting role and he’s fantastic.  He goes on to act in over 20 more movies and TV shows over the years.prizefighter-lady The Prizefighter and the Lady was directed by W.S. Van Dyke for MGM.

Things to look up (go to IMDB ):

Glossary of stunt terms as defined by the book, “FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY” by John Kreng:

Exchange – A series of techniques thrown between combatants without an extended break or pause. A fight scene is usually made up of several exchanges between opponents.

Fight Scene – A fight scene is much like dialogue in the script—it needs to progress at a steady pace. Much like in real life, dialogue can get very tedious and cover the same issue over and over, not really leading anywhere specific. A fight can easily be the same way if you are not aware of the different types of repetition. Also, each successive fight in an action film should be more difficult and exciting than most of the ones that came before, otherwise the overall progression of the film’s intensity will likewise be flat and repetitive.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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