Champ, The (1979): Zeffirelli Remake Starring Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway


Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, better known as a stage director and operas filmmakers, made his first Hollywood movie with the tear-jerker “The Champ,” a remake of the superior 1932 King Vidor movie.

Working from the original screenplay of Frances Marion, Walter Newman has tried (unsuccessfully) to modernize the tale, which is now set in Miami the new up-and-coming city.
Jon Voigt reprises the Oscar-winning role that Wallace Beery made famous, a has-been, down-on-his luck boxer named Billie, who raises singlehandedly an adoring son, J.J. (Ricky Schroder in the part that Jackie Coogan made memorable in 1932).
Faye Dunaway, then popular as a result of winning the Best Actress Oscar for “Network,” is miscast as Annie, the neglectful wife-mother, who comes back after a seven-year-absence to reclaim her boy.
Despite severe headaches and the fact that he has not boxed in a decade, to prove his self-worth and devotion to J.J., Billie decides to go back to the ring to some disastrously tragic results.
Lack of taste and unrestrained pathos define the entire production (including the technical aspects and schmaltzy, overwhelming music_, which doesn’t spare a single gimmick to wrench tears from the viewers, male and female, old and young. 
The film’s glossy veneer makes things worse, because it tries to camouflage the maudlin of the proceeding and the poor characterizations.
A talented ensemble that includes Arthur Hill (as Faye Dunaway’s husband), Jack warden, Strother Martin, Elisha Cook, and Joan Blondell, is totally wasted in this utterly sentimental, exploitative melodrama, helmed by a director who would do anything to achieve cheap emotional manipulation.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Original Score: Dave Grusin
Oscar Awards: None
Oscar Context:
The winner of the Original Score was Georges Delerue for “A Little Romance,” starring Olivier.