DAY OF THE FIGHT
With Walter and Vincent Cartier. Music by Gerald Fried. Cinematography by Kubrick and Alexander Singer (uncredited). Fim editing by Julian Berman and Kubrick (uncredited). Released April 26 1951 when Kubrick was about 23.
It's going to be difficult for me to muster much excitement discussing Kubrick's first film, a documentary, Day of the Fight, as I'm like a nail and Gerald Fried's music is a hammer pound pound pounding me into the wall, Douglas Edwards' narration overseeing the plodding business with a strident yet uncompelling urgency. Plus, I don't like boxing. You can go on all you want about how exciting Kubrick's ring-side photography is, film noir classic and starkly sublime, but the sports footage starts and my eyes glaze over with a combination of ennui and repulsion. Individuals pummeling one another's brains into chronic boxer's encephalopathy doesn't appeal to me, and nice, dramatic photography isn't going to make the cuts and blood frothing from broken noses any more attractive. Not that the blood and broken bone and smashed cartilage is supposed to be anything other than brutal, but it's not exciting to me. Which it is for some. And I guess it was for Kubrick as well. Or he was at least fascinated by it and the why of anyone's enthralled and eager celebration of gladiators fighting to the death...or knock-out. "The primitive, visceral, vicarious thrill of seeing one animal overcome another," as the movie puts it.
Nevertheless, Day of the Fight is interesting to me as part of Kubrick's full body of work and a few relationships that can be drawn between it and his other movies, the most obvious being Killer's Kiss.
The Introduction to the Story
There are two versions of Day of the Fight. One has Kubrick as both producer and director and begins with the poster of the Walter Cartier and Bobby James fight tacked on a utility pole. Then there is the version which has Kubrick as director and Jay Bonafield as producer and opens with stock footage as an introduction to the story that is Kubrick's original version of the film. Douglas Edwards narrates them both and there are some significant differences in the narrative. It seems what we have with these two versions is the film that Kubrick made with the hopes of selling it, and then the film that happened after it was sold to RKO and Bonafield became the producer. Bonafield perhaps said, "Great film but what it needs is..." and Kubrick got lucky with being able to preserve his original film intact while adding the introduction on the sport of boxing that is composed mostly of stock footage of boxers getting pummeled. As a frame to this, at the beginning is the entering of the boxing venue and a fan taking his seat (which is its own little story), then at the end of the intro Walter Cartier is introduced via a book with a record of his fights. If one pays attention to this book, it covers the win over Bobby James and the result of the fight is thus revealed to the audience at the beginning of the movie. At the time the film was released, a boxing fan would perhaps already know who had won so the reveal would be no big deal, but it's still interesting to me that we've the result of the fight given in the final shot of the introduction, so that the suspense of who wins is not the appeal of Kubrick's film that then follows.
THE TITLE CARDS
Day of the Fight card.
Card showing produced by Jay Bonafield.
Card showing directed by Stanley Kubrick
Card showing narrated by Douglas Edwards, written by Robert Rein, edited by Julian Bergman, music by Gerald Fried.
I've done shot-by-shot analyses of nearly all Kubrick's films, and normally I would include the title cards in the shot counts, but that doesn't apply with this film, the reason for which I'll explain later, after my discussion on the introduction and prior the description of the main body of the film.
Kubrick, in his films, does sometimes manipulate shot counts as if to comment on the action. Of course, the viewer is unaware of this, and my belief is that he did so according to his own ideas of supplying/imposing an additional component of creative structure. One of the best examples that an uninitiated viewer might accept would be in how he structures the end of Killer's Kiss. In shot 488 we have a train station voice-over of "494, 493, 492. 491 and 490. The Pathfinder for Chicago and Seattle, leaving..." Then the final shot of the film is shot 494. This is not coincidental. Another example of that internal numbering structure is observed in 2001 The first part of the film is 360 shots. Which gives us a full circle. The second part of the film is 237 shots.
When I numbered the shots of Day of the Fight, I was actually surprised to find a hint of internal structure which I'd not been expecting with this first film. That internal structure seems to show the early influence of chess, or at least a nod to it.
My numbering of shots in my analyses only grew out of an appreciation for early books I'd used for studying movies in which shots were numbered and greatly helped understanding editing and organization.
THE INTRODUCTORY SHOTS OF THE BONAFIELD PRODUCTION
1 Image of TONITE BOXING.
2 Man approaches ticket window passing BOXING TONIGHT sign.
3 Medium shot same man from front taking money from wallet and signaling at window for 1 ticket.
4 Medium-close shot of man from behind ticket window bars getting his ticket and moving on.
5 A ticket-holder being shown to his seat.
6 Long shot of boxing ring.
7 Medium long shot of boxers.
8 Medium shot of boxers.
9 Ticket holder cheering and simulating punching.
11 Closer shot of boxers.
12 Photographers at ringside.
14 Medium shot boxers.
15 Long shot of another boxing match. One of the boxers is knocked out of the ring into the crowd.
16 Profile reaction shot of woman.
17 Boxers again in ring. Boxer is knocked out.
18 Another boxing match with man being knocked out.
19 Crossfade to boxers and one being knocked out.
20 Another shot of boxers with one falling.
21 Outdoor shot of boxers in ring with one falling.
22 Another boxing ring with boxer falling.
23 Quick crossfade to boxer being knocked down.
24 Quick crossfade to boxer knocked down and struggling to try to stand as the countdown finishes.
25 Rear shot of 3 photographers at ringside.
26 Boxer and trainer in practice ring.
27 Medium long shot of boxer and trainer in practice ring.
28 Long shot of two practice rings side by side with boxers and spectators.
29 Two helmeted boxers in practice ring.
30 3 longshoremen lifting a bag at the dock.
31 Swipe to college student in A sweater studying in library.
32 Swipe to gas station attendant.
33 Swipe to another worker perhaps testing milk in lab.
34 A teen packages groceries for a boy.
35 Swipe to man pummelling a punching bag.
36 Long shot 3 men with punching bags.
37 Medium shot from left of the 3 men with punching bags.
38 Medium shot from left of men with punching bags.
39 Medium shot man with punching bag on pole.
40 Medium close-up man punching.
41 Medium shot man punching a punching bag.
42 Man jumproping.
43 2 men in helmets sparring.
44 Long shot from left of two practice rings.
45 Practice ring with numerous men inside.
46 2 practice rings.
47 The practice ring again with numerous men.
48 1 man in practice ring shadowboxing.
49 Boxers in ring.
50 Medium close-up of boxers in ring.
51 Medium long shot of boxers.
52 News man or announcer.
53 Line of news men seated beside the ring.
54 Hands typing.
55 Crossfade to boxing historian Nat Fleischer in office typing with pictures of boxers on the wall behind.
56 Side view of Fleischer.
57 Fleischer picking up one of his Ring Record books on boxing.
58 He opens it.
59 Picture in book of boxer in handlebar mustache with bow tie.
60 Fleischer flipping through pages in the book.
61 Picture of boxer Jack Dempsey.
62 Shot of book from over Fleischer's shoulder.
63 Flipping pages to yet another boxer. Flips a few more pages to Walter Cartier.
64 Closer shot of information on Walter Cartier and his fights beginning in 1947 and continuing through December of 1950, including the Bobby James fight of April 17th with which this film is concerned. We see a KNO occurred in 2 rounds. Fade out.
Notes on the Introduction
Now to run through some of the major points covered in the Bonafield production introduction and a few ways in which they may connect to other films of Kubrick's.
Shot 1 "Day of the Fight" as produced by Bonafield
The first image of the Bonafield production is a lit marquee broadcasting TONITE BOXING. The second shot of the film moves inside the venue to a BOXING TONIGHT sign and a man approaching a vendor to purchase his ticket.
Shot 2 "Day of the Fight" as produced by Bonafield
Kubrick later employed doublings in his films, and we find that in Day of the Fight and its intro he is already interested in doublings. Indeed, he begins the intro with two slightly different variations on a phrase: "tonite boxing" and "boxing tonight". But then the documentary is about twin brothers who are boxers.
There's no point meditating too long on the first minutes of the documentary as it is almost all stock footage anchoring an introduction in which we learn not so much about the history of boxing but about how "fanatics" enjoy watching people savagely beat each other up, and that the privilege of becoming a champion is reserved for a very few, most fighters not even able to earn a modest living at boxing despite the sacrifice of their bodies and brains. However, though it is stock footage, Kubrick made the choices of what would be used and how it would be all fit together under the narrative of Robert Rein's script. What he begins with an is almost comic, somewhat denigrating depiction of one of the many arriving fans who were feeding the then ninety-million a year business, followed by shots of the bloody business, and another fan pummeling the air in the joyous thrill of presumably, vicariously savaging his boss and the world through these intercessory priests of vengeance.
Kubrick shows then the photographers...
Shot 12 "Day of the Fight" as produced by Bonafield
Of which Kubrick had been one, taking photos of boxing matches during his photojournalism days, and from which he took inspiration for this film.
We are shown men aren't the only ones who enjoy a fight that is all about the spilling of "somebody else's blood". Women enjoy it as well. The film's music then moves into center ring circus gaiety as we are treated to one knock-out punch after another flattening flesh to the mat.
Shot 17 "Day of the Fight" as produced by Bonafield
Following the profile shot of the woman in shot 17, we continue with a lengthy segment of brief boxing clips that begins with a down-for-the-count boxer writhing in pain and confusion, his hands to his face, and continues with the dance of the pugilists, one down-for-the-count individual so disoriented that though his face is glued to the mat his body struggles vainly to rise as if driven not by conscious choice but senseless, muscularly-inculcated training.
Shot 18 "Day of the Fight" as produced by Bonafield
Are we honoring the never-say-die endurance that carries humanity through its struggles despite their sorrows and the end specter of death? We're that boxing is a good living for only 60 out of 6000, and that its attraction is a matter of the promise of fame and glory.
NARROWING DOWN THE GLOBAL TO THE PARTICULAR
With shot 54 the introduction begins to whittle down the many faces in the arena to the single one with which this film is concerned. Kubrick shifts from the boxing ring to the sports writer's/archivist's office of Nat Fleischer.
Shot 54 "Day of the Fight" as produced by Bonafield
He shows first the typewriter, then the office itself with walls covered with photos of famous boxers.
Shot 55 "Day of the Fight" as produced by Bonafield
Then we move to the books in which boxers and their careers are recorded, finally narrowing the movie down to the individual it will be following.
Kubrick's first feature film, Fear and Desire, is about four men stranded in enemy territory. After a scene in which the soldiers kill several enemy soldiers, a lieutenant stands above a body, looking down upon it, with narration of his thoughts running over.
"We spend our lives running our fingers down the lists and directories, looking for our real names, our permanent addresses. No man is an island. Perhaps that was true a long time ago, before the ice age. The glaciers have melted away and now we're all islands. Parts of a world made of islands only."
In a 1966 interview with Jeremy Berstein, Kubrick remarks on this passage specifically when he's talking of the screenplay for Fear and Desire having been dull and allegorical. But it is a passage that takes us back to this scene in Day of the Fight and the introduction of our boxer via Fleischer's book. I wouldn't think to make a note of this if not for the fact that in Fear and Desire the above-mentioned dialogue on "running our fingers down the lists and directories, looking for our real names" was immediately after a raid with the lieutenant staring down at the bodies of the defeated.
The idea of searching for one's "real name" carries also another relevancy to Walter Cartier, for the family was Irish and their original name was McCarthy. Walter's grandfather changed the name from McCarthy to Carter then Cartier, and Walter originally fought under the name Wally "Twin" Carter. That he was a twin was used as a selling point, something to distinguish him from the other boxers.
Shot 63 "Day of the Fight" as produced by Bonafield
The typewriter shot may remind of the typewriter in The Shining. The first time we see Jack's typewriter in The Shining, Kubrick, pulls the camera up to reveal...
Typewriter in "The Shining"
...Jack in the Colorado Lounge playing a vigorous game of handball. Certain walls of the Colorado Lounge have been shown to be filled with photos of, presumably, prestigious individuals and memorable events at The Overlook, forming a "Camera Walk". The Colorado Lounge, in which Jack writes, is lined with such pictures.
Handball in "The Shining"
Though the photos are a key part of the decor of the hotel, Kubrick is careful to never focus on any one of the photos for too long.
Drawing a comparison between the photos in The Shining and the photos in this scene in Day of the Fight may seem a stretch, except that in Day of the Fight it is via the typewriter, and the sports writer's/archivist's office with its own form of a camera walk, that the switch is made from the introductory, stock footage material on the sport of boxing to the individual upon whom the film will focus, and at the end of The Shining when the camera finally, for the first time, makes one of the hotel's photo walls its subject, honing in on a particular image and zooming in, the revelation is Jack, or his doppelganger, in the photo record of The Overlook. Whereas the photo transition in The Day of the Fight is a matter of introducing the focal character of the story, in The Shining there is nothing to which to transition after the final photograph of Jack, and is the only photo upon which the film ever focuses despite the wealth of photos observed in the movie. As this is where the film ends, the essential story that follows must occur in the imagination of the viewer and their attempt to make sense of the confounding revelation of Jack seemingly being observed in a 1921 photo at The Overlook. We are at film's end when this mysterious and unexpected epilogue occurs and there is nowhere left to go but back to the beginning, to re-evaluate the story in light of this.
Jack in the photo in "The Shining"
THE PRIOR PHOTOJOURNALISM STORY AND DOCUMENTARY REALITY
We are told we're going to meet a randomly chosen pugilist and follow him around for a day before his match. That randomly chosen fellow will be Walter Cartier, who isn't as random as all that as Kubrick had done a photo journalism article on him for LOOK magazine in 1948. Now, it's 1950 and Kubrick is doing his first film, a documentary. So, there's a certain conceit here with Cartier presented as randomly chosen when he was not, but it also makes good documentary sense. Documentaries take a story form and the story form is one that is highly artificial, however based in reality the facts may be.
Though the version Kubrick produced, which hasn't the intro, has a title card to attest that the events in the film are true, there are certain particulars which weren't fact, such as the age of the Cartier brothers. They are given as 24 but instead they were 26 in 1950, born in 1924. I don't know if Kubrick was aware of this or not, but I would imagine he may have been as he had already done a story on them in 1948 when he was about 20 and they would have been 24. For a 20-year-old, that is usually a broad age gap and one that is at least intuited.
Sleeping twins. Shot by Kubrick for the LOOK story. [Walter Cartier, Prizefighter of Greenwich Village--Walter and Vincent Cartier sleeping. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York].
The twins play chess. Shot by Kubrick for the LOOK story. [Walter Cartier, Prizefighter of Greenwich Village--Walter Cartier playing chess. From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York].
THE NUMBERING OF SHOTS IN THE KUBRICK PRODUCTION AND THE BONAFIELD PRODUCTION
Excepting the 4 title card shots in the Kubrick production of the film, there are 101 shots. My rationale behind leaving out the 4 title card shots is this. At shot 30 in the Kubrick production of the film, the voice-over notes that it's 4 o'clock and Walter has 6 hours until he enters the ring. It is with shot 64 that Walter is shown ring-side. So, first it is said that at 4 Walter has 6 hours until his fight, then we have Walter approach the ring in shot 64.
Also, shot 6 is at 6 a.m.
Now, what happens to this with the appended introduction of the Bonafield production? Of course, it is thrown off. Walter no longer appears ring-side in shot 64. How is Kubrick to preserve the association of the number 64 and the boxing ring? How about in the appended introduction? What if he transfers the number 64 to that, which it seems is the idea he came up with, for the number of shots in that introduction are 64. Whereas shot 64 had been, in Kubrick's production, associated with the game of the ring and the gamers (boxers) approaching it, we instead are delivered over to the original body of Kubrick's film.
The 64 perhaps has to do with Kubrick's love of chess, 64 alternating black and white checks being the number of spaces on the chess board, and he transferred from chess to film certain ideas of strategic and symbolic organization. Also, if Kubrick knew the I-Ching then he would have been aware of 64 being the number of the hexagrams and that the 64th and final one signifies "before completion", the importance of what happens between then and completion in defining success or failure.
By the way, 64 shots in 4 minutes is a lot for Kubrick. With Fear and Desire he had a much higher than normal count shot count for his films, but the original 12 or so minutes of Day of the Fight has only 101 shots in comparison to the 64 shots in that 4 minute introduction. That also suggests to me that he did what he could to beef up the shot count to reach 64 in the introduction.
That intro for the RKO Bonafield production finished, we now fade to black and go into the Kubrick production. Due the significant differences in the narrative, watching the Kubrick production for this portion is crucial.
At about 4 minutes and 12 seconds begin the real Kubrick part of the documentary.
The Shots of the Main Body of the Film
1 Medium shot of Cartier and Bobby James poster on a utility pole with NY street behind.
2 Medium shot of Cartier and James poster on a brick wall.
3 CU shot of Walter Cartier's picture on poster beside the name Bobby.
4 Pan over NY to Apollonian (of Delos) style building. Village Pres Church. Pan down.
5 Crossfade to 3 arched windows, supposedly of Walter Cartier's apartment, superimposed on the rear of the 13th street buildings above.
6 6 a.m. Walter and Vincent in bed. Above them hangs a cross with a palm frond behind a picture of Christ.
7 Closer shot of the twins. Walter and Vincent get up.
8 Opposite side of bed.
9 Walter looks out the window.
10 City street from behind fire escape bars of Walter's window.
11 Walter and Vincent walking down street past a cafe with Palisades Park sign.
12 The twins crossing 6th street before Corby's bar and Dans Bar.
13 From the rear as they approach a corner, the store named Jonas.
14 The roman catholic church. Pan down from above as they enter.
15 The Pieta.
16 The twins at the communion rail.
17 Kitchen. Vincent collects Walter's plates to serve him eggs.
18 Walter's supposed dog.
19 Walter feeds the dog a crust of bread.
20 Dog chewing the bread. Fade to black.
21 State of New Jersey Athletic Commission door.
22 Noon. Walter's blood pressure being read by doctor.
23 Eyes examined.
24 Walter is weighed. Fade to black.
25 Exterior The Steak Joint.
26 Walter cutting steak.
27 Walter eating with Dan Stampler, owner of the restaurant. Fade to black on his second and final meal before the match.
28 Walter plays with his dog.
29 Vincent smokes a pipe, the phone of the hook.
30 Walter with the dog. It's 4. 6 hours before he enters the ring.
31 Vincent and Walter at the windows in the bedroom.
32 Walter's silks and shoes etc. His robe.
33 Crossfade to Walter combing his hair in the mirror. He examines his eyebrow and nose, flattening his nose against his face.
34 Vincent packs Walter's gear.
35 Walter and Vincent ride in the convertible.
36 View of houses passed on street.
37 Walter and Vincent in the car.
38 Crossfade to the car pulling up at the arena.
39 BOXING EVERY MON. NITE sign.
40 The car stopping before the arena. The twins climb out. Fade to black.
41 8 p.m. Walter and Vincent with trainer or manager in prep room.
42 Walter's hand being wrapped.
43 Close up of Walter's right bandaged fist as he opens and closes it. Vincent in the background with a boxing glove on his left fist.
44 Medium shot Walter testing his hands against each other, fist against open palm.
45 Walter does bouncing squats.
46 Walter exercising with Vincent behind.
47 Medium close-up Walter.
49 Vincent applies vaseline to Walter's face.
50 Side view Vincent applying the vaseline.
51 Walter applies the vaseline to Walter's chest and Walter removes his religious medallion and gives it to Vincent.
52 The trainer or manager.
53 Walter having the jelly applied, laughing.
54 "And everything's here at last" commentary as we now have close-up of Walter in EVERLAST trunks and Vincent fitting on his EVERLAST boxing gloves.
55 Walter punches Vincent's palms. He's given as slowly becoming another man.
56 Vincent with his palms being punched.
57 Walter boxing Vincent.
58 Another view of Walter boxing Vincent. 15 minutes left.
59 Walter relaxing in his robe.
60 Walter and Vincent sitting at right angles from each other.
61 The commissioner enters and calls Walter.
62 The trainer//manager with his cigar.
63 Walter and Vincent. They rise.
64 The arena. Vincent and Walter approaching.
65 Another view of them beside the arena.
66 Long shot of them beside the arena. Walter climbs in and the bell rings.
68 Man listening to radio.
69 Walter having his robe untied.
70 Bobby James.
71 A boy and man sitting beside another radio.
72 Walter and Bobby.
73 Men in the audience.
74 View of ring from under Bobby's seat. Bell rings and they enter.
75 Long shot.
76 Medium long shot.
77 Women in audience becoming involved.
78 Walter from behind Bobby.
79 Long shot.
80 Face punches.
81 Long shot.
82 Medium long shot. Hug.
83 Long shot.
84 They separate.
85 Low shot of leg work. Circling. Overhead lamps.
86 The pair.
87 Dramatic shot from below of their faces.
88 They are separated.
89 Spectators, man and woman.
90 Long shot of boxers from behind spectators.
91 Separated and boxing.
92 Walter lands punch that brings Bobby down.
93 Man yelling in audience.
94 Bobby down for the count.
95 Man smoking in audience, looking on.
96 Shot of man's rear I guess looking over Bobby James.
97 Walter's mouth guard removed. His robe having been put on.
98. "This is a fighter" commentary as man helps a woman on with her white coat as they prepare to leave. He wears a bow tie with white handkerchief in his pocket.
99 Walter in ring.
100 Back of Bobby James in opposite corner as other men enter ring to speak to Walter. "To him it's worth all the hardship and the risk. To him it's worth..."
101 "...everything." Rear of Walter in his robe. Bobby James' robe is slipped on. Vincent with profile to the camera as he stands beside Walter. Fade to black.
NOTES ON THE MAIN BODY OF THE FILM
Now begins the meat of Kubrick's film, a sharp move to a different aesthetic, Kubrick cutting from the boxing bio of Walter Cartier in the book on boxers to a poster of Cartier against the empty, morning New York street.
Shot 1 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Kubrick gives us Walter's face in close-up, but textually we have a little confusion with "Bobby" being the only name we see beside the face.
Shot 3 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Kubrick's introduction to Killer's Kiss, his second feature film, was of a boxer waiting at the train station for a lover to appear, opening narration providing just enough information to prepare the audience for the action to follow being a flashback. When Kubrick cuts away from the train station, it is to posters of the boxer framed much as in Day of the The Fight.
"Killer's Kiss" poster of Davey
As in Day of the Fight, Kubrick then takes us in for a closer look at the main character before jumping into the story, but now we have the picture of the boxer plainly associated with his name on the poster.
"Killer's Kiss" poster of Davey
Sticking with Killer's Kiss a moment more, after the poster shots, Kubrick cuts to the boxer's apartment, which bears no resemblance to Walter Cartier's lifestyle. The first shot in the apartment is of Davey Gordon examining his profile in the mirror. The actor duplicates almost exactly a scene in which Walter Cartier examines his own profile in a mirror in Day of the Fight (shot 33). After that, we continue to have some parallels between the two films as Davey prepares for his fight, then with the fight itself. But whereas Day of the Fight ends with the boxing match and the boxer's success, Davey's unsuccessful fight in Killer's Kiss is toward the beginning of the film, after which we move into the story of Davey and Gloria and his battle to release her from the dark side of New York City.
"Killer's Kiss", compare with shot 33 of "Day of the Fight"
Returning to Day of the Fight, after the posters in the street we are shown next an overview of a couple of city streets.
Shot 4 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
This overview pans down and crossfades to 3 windows that presumably belong to the apartment of Walter Cartier.
Shot 5 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
At least we are given the impression that they belong to the apartment of Walter Cartier. I will return to these windows briefly.
Kubrick cuts to Walter and Vincent in bed. They are clothed in pajamas, whereas in the LOOK article they were only in underwear. This may have been perceived as too intimate for the documentary.
Shot 6 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
If you don't know about Kubrick's prior photo story on Cartier, you haven't been prepared for the fact Walter has a twin, so it's a surprise to then be shown two grown men in the same bed in 1950. Some look for a suggestion of homoeroticism, and perhaps that is there, but I'm more tuned to the doublings Kubrick consistently has in his films and the theatrical Apollonian/Dionysian elements of oppositional and complementary forces and their essential duality. These are, after all, brothers who he has photographed previously. The men are obviously twins, near mirror duplicates. Kubrick's interest in doublings has already been exhibited in his photography, and it is of importance that this interest is displayed even in his first film, Day of the Fight, in the doubling motif of Walter and his twin, introduced with Walter and his twin brother lying side by side. In their pajamas they are as yet undifferentiated.
The shots for the photospread in LOOK magazine are superior to the filmed footage. In the LOOK photos Kubrick shot low from the side of the bed with one twin still sleeping while the other has risen. In the film, Kubrick chooses to shoot the pair from the foot of the bed, at a corner angle rather than from the side, even though it's a less dynamic shot.
Much will be made of Walter's devotion to his faith and Kubrick may have wanted this angle as it showed the cross and religious imagery above the head of the bed. One may note the palm frond tucked behind the picture of Christ. That is because it's April 17th, a week and a day after Easter Sunday of 1950 and the first day of Iyar, the 2nd month in the Jewish calendar, which is the month of Taurus, the bull. Kubrick made his feature film of the boxer, Killer's Kiss, under the Minotaur production company, which brought back in the idea of the moon bull, a theme that is often in Kubrick's films, if not obviously, and which is most notably expressed in The Shining via the maze and the associated myth of the minotaur in the labyrinth. In Killer's Kiss the city streets themselves are as a maze, the same as in Eye's Wide Shut.
The narration has introduced us to Walter and Vincent, Vincent being Walter's twin who stays with him when he is preparing for a fight, and who used to also be a boxer.
In some respects, the film is less about Walter's preparing for the fight than the fact he is a twin.
Kubrick shows Walter looking out his window. To me this doesn't appear to be the same window as shown in shot 5. That building was brick. I may be wrong, but this window appears to be lined with granite block.
Shot 9 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Next we have Walter's POV of the city street, Walter gazing through the bars of a fire escape/balcony.
Shot 10 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
The same view as it is today.
Walter and Vincent were given as living with their aunt Eva. I checked with the census documents and Eva lived at 136 W. 12th street. The view above is opposite and a little down from where 136 W. 12th would have been. The 136 W. 12th where they lived no longer exists, but the New York Public Library had an image of 130 W. 12th Street. 136 would have been somewhere to the left of it (our right as we view the image). Perhaps shot 10 was made from the building just left of 130. It has the requisite narrow bars of the fire escape in front. Perhaps from the 2nd floor.
Pre-WWII construction on 130 W. 12th Street
The question is, why did Kubrick, in shot 4, not show us Walter and Vincent's building, then show in shot 5 what are presumably their windows but may not be? For we have the seeming narrowing down from the broad to the particular, as if we should be zeroing in on a particular place, the apartment building and the apartment in which the Cartiers live. In the long shot, what Kubrick is showing us is housing on W. 12th street, panning down to the area between 12th and 13th street, then goes to shot 5 and 3 arched windows. The Cartier apartment was instead on the opposite side of W. 13th street.
This may have been only a matter of convenience, what it was easy for Kubrick to get a shot of, and that it needn't be factual. However, I am interested in a building that Kubrick shows in shot 4, considering the Apollonian/Dionysian elements in Kubrick's work. If we look back to shot 4 what do we see?
Shot 4 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Panning over the city street Kubrick had rested upon a building of Apollonian design. It was the Village Presbyterian Church at 145 West 13th Street and its 6 column facade is based on the Apollonian temple at Delos.
Apollonian Temple at Delos
One could say it's pure serendipity or coincidence that this Apollonian facade was a block over from the Cartier's, but Kubrick is the one who has shown it, which is rather fantastic, that he would open his first film with this. For what Kubrick is doing is setting up, with the temple facade and the twins, the Apollonian/Dionysian dynamic that he explores in all his films, of order partnered with chaos, the rational mind paired with the physical and instinctual, and their roles in theatrical story-telling and ritualistic expression. Some may look at these forces as oppositional, such as with the black and white of a chess board, but the relationships are more subtle than simply being dark versus light. We have a "between" and Kubrick always represents this as well, such as in the body of the monolith in 2001.
The Dionysian aspect is observed with the twins going to church first thing in the morning, and Kubrick showing the sculpture of the Pieta, the crucified Dionysian Christ resting in the arms of the Madonna.
Following their rising in the morning, as with the LOOK photo spread, Kubrick depicts the ritual of Walter going to mass on the morning of a fight, for Walter considers communion to be a crucial component of his pre-fight ritual. Kubrick tracks the twins walking through New York, which may give time for some exposition and a bit of history but is also used to present the twins, their physical similarities. When they cross a street, they walk to the center and then jog across in the exact same manner, showing much the same body language.
Vincent, who has moved onto a profession in law, wears a long necktie whereas Walter wears a bow tie. Something black is in Vincent's breast pocket while Walter has a white handkerchief. So it's by clothing we distinguish the two.
Shot 11 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Shot 12 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Again, let's return to the three arched windows, which had been followed by the shot of the twins in their bed beneath the religious iconography. Kubrick, showing the cross, presenting the apartment as having the three arched windows, either purposefully or accidentally draws a parallel with the Catholic church to which the men go that morning for mass (St. Francis Xavier Church at 30-36 West 16th Street) when he focuses on the three arches out front as he pans down to show the twins entering the building.
Shot 14 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Then he shows the Pieta within, the crucified Christ held by the mourning Madonna.
Shot 15 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
In relationship to this we might consider the three arches motif that appears in Eyes Wide Shut, connecting Somerton to the hospital where Bill goes to see the dead model. The upper center arch at Somerton is the one in which will later appear the woman in the black feather mask who says she will take Bill's place. Just as the three arches compose an underlying visual of a religious motif in Day of the Fight, so do they as well in Eyes Wide Shut.
Somerton in "Eyes Wide Shut"
The woman in the black feathered mask is given by Victor as being the same as Amanda who had overdosed in his bathroom, however the parts were played by two different women, Kubrick purposefully confusing identities.
The hospital exterior in "Eyes Wide Shut"
We are intended to believe this is the entrance to the hospital in Eyes Wide Shut, but the lobby in which Bill enters does not match up with this facade. The interior of the hospital is one in London, while the exterior is one in New York. Kubrick has chosen for the hospital exterior one which has the three arch facade. In both the hospital, and the church, our characters meditate upon a figure they believe has played a role in their salvation. Bill's version of a "savior" is the dead woman who he believes volunteered to surrender herself to whatever punishment he was to receive for his transgressing upon the secret, ritualistic party. In other words, the mysteries.
I'm going to go with the story that Walter and Vincent did attend church on the morning of his bouts, but was it specifically this church to which they would usually have gone, with which Kubrick would have been familiar as it is on W. 16th street directly across from where he lived at 37 W. 16th Street. Perhaps so. Or perhaps Kubrick chose this church due his familiarity with it. I don't know.
37 W. 16th Street, where Kubrick lived, is the green building with the blue awnings on the right side of the street, almost directly opposite the church. He would, it seems, have made shot 14, the twins entering the church, from the building in which he lived.
After communion, Walter and his brother return to their apartment where Vince cooks Walter's breakfast. This shot is much like the magazine spread but omits their aunt, who was in the LOOK photo of the kitchen and shared the apartment with Walter.
Shot 17 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
The magazine spread showed Walter's physical examination before the big fight, as does the documentary, but the documentary shows only Cartier and the doctor rather than having any auxiliary persons as observed in the photo spread.
The light shining in Walter's eye during the eye examination may remind of Danny's examination in The Shining after his first vision of the bloody elevator and the "twin" girls, the doctor visiting him in his bedroom. It may remind of the light shown in Humbert Humbert's eye in Lolita when, at the hospital, he becomes upset and disruptive upon finding Lolita has run off and is wrestled down to the ground by orderlies.
Shot 23 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Kubrick builds a picture first of Walter the regular guy as opposed to Walter the boxer. In the magazine photos he rounded out Walter's life with photos of him enjoying sand and surf with a girlfriend. The magazine spread also showed Walter playing with a nephew, these things communicating him as a compassionate, friendly everyman. In the movie, Kubrick keeps the focus on Walter and Vincent, replacing the girlfriend and the nephew with a dog. Which is given as being Walter's dog. But it isn't. Walter didn't own a dog.
The narration speaks of how the kind, playful hands of the dog's master will be the same with which he uses in his work that evening. In other words, the dual nature of the boxer. He is both gentle and brutal.
The documentary had given Walter as being chosen at random when instead Kubrick had previously done a photo spread on him. The documentary gives Walter as owning a dog and shows him playing with the dog, which makes Walter even more approachable for the audience. Though the film gives everything in it as being factual, Kubrick doesn't mind flexing the truth.
Shot 28 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
We are told it's 4 p.m., 6 hours before the fight. He has already had his "last"meal.
Tension has built as the day wore on. Kubrick has been careful throughout to keep the brothers clearly identifiable as either Walter or Vincent. This ability to differentiate between the two is threatened in a shot that pans from the left bedroom window to the right. One of the men is seated in the left bedroom window, looking out, while the other man stands before the right bedroom window. If we have been paying attention we'll have noted Walter is in short shirt sleeves and Vincent in long, but upon their return home there are no ties or handkerchiefs to otherwise distinguish them. The narration speaks of both individuals, not just Walter, and the viewer may not know which is which.
Shot 31 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Afterward, Kubrick shows the boxer's tools of the trade which are ready to be packed, then cuts to Walter examining his reflection in the mirror. Though Walter is examining himself in the mirror, Kubrick is concerned with dualities, alternative natures, and in essence he is representing Walter here, with his reflection, as two persons.
This mirror shot is one that was duplicated in Killer's Kiss.
Shot 33 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
The twins are driven in a car down to the arena, both riding in the back seat of the convertible together, seemingly inseparable.
Shot 43 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
At the arena, Walter is now in the last two hours of his preparations, Vincent involved throughout. His hands taped, Walter flexes them, from open palms to closed fists. Behind him, Vincent works on Walter's gloves.
Shot 49 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
As Vincent rubs Walter down, the narration states, "At a time like this, it's almost as though the brothers are going into the ring together. Every blow that Walter takes is going to land on Vince, too. But they don't talk about that."
The two experience everything as a single entity.
Shot 54 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
As he practices throwing punches at his brother, the narration continues, "Walter is slowly becoming another man. This is the man who cannot lose. Who must not lose. The hard movements of his arms and fists are different from what they were an hour ago. They belong to a fierce, new person. They're part of the arena man. The fighting machine that the crowd outside has paid to see..."
Shot 64 finds us at ringside, Walter and Vincent entering from left.
Shot 64 of Kubrick's production "Day of the Fight". The above image is slightly cropped at bottom.
Finally, there is the fight.
Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
It's presented as is. No narration or music.
Shot 87 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Kubrick caught this amazing shot through his photo journalism reflexes, rushing over to hold the movie camera under the men and shooting without seeing what he was capturing.
Cartier wins and the documentary now rapidly draws to a close, Cartier not even briefly shown with his arms raised in victory.
Shot 97 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Shot 98 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
The quick shot of the woman in the audience immediately follows Walter's victory and his robe being adjusted by Vincent. She is being "robed" by a man in a bowtie, which appears to conflate her with Walter who is being robed by Vincent, the voice-over stating as we briefly see her, "This is a fighter." I'm reminded of the role of Tiresias in the Apollonian/Dionysian drama, his changing from a man to a woman and then back to a man, by which he is thus able to experience all aspects of the drama and survive it.
You'd probably have to watch the shots to see what I'm talking about and how pointed this comparison between Walter and the woman is. Begin at 11:57.
The last shot of the film begins with a brief flash of white light eclipsing our vision of the ring, which will be recalled in A Clockwork Orange and the numerous flashes that accompany Alex's reception of the press at that film's end.
Shot 101 of Kubrick's production of "Day of the Fight"
Walter Cartier, the winner, is shown from the rear in his embroidered robe. Kubrick has chosen to finish on Cartier's back rather than his face, and not far from him is the back of Bobby James, the individual who has just lost. It feels as if a very abrupt end to the film, and it is. Walter is not shown joyous in his victory. We are reminded that it is a hard life that to Cartier is worth the risk of a prospective championship.
The core of Kubrick's fledgling cinemagraphic entry, apart from the appended introduction, is taut, if predictably linear, and his photo experience stands out with his shooting during the fight and the preparations immediately before it. The story is less conflict with "other" than with self, as Walter transforms from a gentle and religious man to a fighter. Almost as important is the story of the audience, their vicarious involvement in the fight that allows them emotional release in the punishing battle and participation as well in Cartier's victory.
What would Kubrick have done with his documentary had Cartier lost?
In Killer's Kiss, the boxer does lose. He is not a victor in the ring. And we experience his depression and the loss of faith in him by those close to him. But then he quickly becomes involved in what is his real battle, which is with a gangster who abuses a woman who lives in his building.
NOTE: IMDB sometimes gets its attributions incorrect. It correctly gives Walter cartier as performing as Pvt. Claude Dillingham in The Phil Silvers Show, but he is not the Walter Cartier who performed in The Benny Hill Show or in Fiddler on the Roof
The Showgirl as Walter Cartier's Counterpart and Her Relationship to Killer's Kiss. Before the Black Swan and The Fight Kubrick had the boxer Walter Cartier and the showgirl Rosemary Williams.
"The Creep" And The Doll - - 1951 Life Article on Showgirl, Rosemary Williams, Who Had Been Photographed by Kubrick for an Unpublished Look Story in 1949. Wherein Rosemary Williams becomes involved in a scandal.
Conclusion of the Sid Levy Trial, Benefactor of Showgirl Rosemary Williams Who Kubrick Had Photographed in 1949
Are Rosemary Williams and Sidney Levy in Kubrick's Day of the Fight?
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