An obviously ailing Humphrey Bogart made his final screen appearance in The Harder They Fall. Adapted from a novel by Budd Schulberg, the film is a thinly disguised a clef account of the Primo Carnera boxing scandal. Bogart is cast as unemployed newspaperman Eddie Willis, who sells his soul down the river when he signs on as press agent for slimy fight manager Nick Benko (Rod Steiger). It is Willis' job to stir up publicity for Benko's newest protégé, Argentinian boxer Toro Moreno (Mike Lane). Benko's boy quickly rises to the top of his profession, though everybody but Toro knows that all the fights have been fixed. Upon learning that Benko intends to bilk Toro of his earnings, Willis regains his integrity, tells the wide-eyed young pugilist the truth, then sits down to write a searing expose of the fight racket. Jan Sterling costars as Willis' estranged wife, while real-life boxers Jersey Joe Walcott and Max Baer are suitably cast as Toro's trainer and ring opponent, respectively. There is also a heartbreaking cameo appearance by ex-fighter Joe Greb, cast as a punchdrunk skid row bum. The Harder They Fall originally went out with two different endings: in one, Eddie Willis demanded that boxing be banned altogether, while in the other, Willis merely insisted that there be a federal investigation of the prizefighting business. The videotape version contains the "harder" denouement, while most TV prints end with the "softer" message.
by Hal Erickson synopsis