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Jim Corbett

Loses His Title In The World's First Feature Film

The Fitzsimmons fight was filmed by pioneering film director Enoch J. Rector, who captured the entire bout with three separate cameras. The event was staged in a specially erected ring just for the occasion, and it took place during daylight hours to accommodate the movie cameras. Since the fight lasted more than 90 minutes, Rector created the first known feature-length film in the process of filming the fight.

Corbett got the better of his challenger for six rounds, bloodying his face, and neatly avoiding the worst that Fitzsimmons could dish out. In the sixth round, Corbett knocked Fitzsimmons down for a nine-count, very nearly winning the match. But Fitzsimmons rallied, finally wearing the champion down with body blows, and scoring a knockdown in the 14th round with a devastating blow to Corbett's solar plexus. Fitzsimmons rejected all future challenges by Corbett, and so Corbett was not able to attempt to regain his title until after Fitzsimmons lost the title to James J. Jeffries.

Gentleman Jim

Gentleman Jim, released in 1942 by Warner Brothers, starred Errol Flynn in the title role. Based on Corbett's autobiography, The Roar of the Crowd, it was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Corbett's championship victory over John L. Sullivan. It was said that of the more than 60 films made by Flynn, this one was his favorite.

Directed by Raoul Walsh, the film portrayed Corbett as a devil-may-care, happy-go-lucky fighter who never lost his nerve or confidence in his own abilities. It also evoked the rough-and-tumble San Francisco of the late 1800s.

Memorable scenes included an enactment of the Corbett-Choynski barge fight, and, of course, the climatic fight for the title with Sullivan. Sullivan was played by Ward Bond, who had been an accomplished boxer in college. The filmmakers took some artistic license in adding a fictitious scene in which Sullivan hands over his championship belt to Corbett, telling him that it was time for him (Sullivan) to make way for a new breed of fighter.

Flynn was a good choice to play Corbett, since he was about the same height and weight as the famous boxer, and had been something of an amateur boxer himself. The film star found the role extremely taxing however; a heart condition rendered him unable to shoot fight scenes for more than a minute at a time. But fight trainer Mushy Callahan, charged with getting Flynn in shape for the movie, found Flynn a quick study. Primary among his tasks was to train Flynn to make extensive use of his left punch, the way Corbett did.

Gentleman Jim opened to strong reviews, and was a box office success. Boxing great Mike Tyson later said that the film was the best boxing movie he had ever seen.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsBoxingJim Corbett Biography - A Born Fighter, From Bank Teller To Professional Boxer, Rise Of A Champion, Chronology