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Smash Hit

Race, Crime, and Culture in Boxing Films
by David Curcio


Cinema emerged alongside the rules that ushered in boxing’s modern age and the “squared circle” proved the ideal stage for cinematic display. The public had its first taste of the new medium in 1894 through a heavyweight bout, recognized today as the world’s first feature film.

As the two attractions fast-grew into the country’s most popular entertainments, nascent Hollywood studios were quick to spot an opening for a surefire combo. Like a snap-jab to the teeth, the boxing film emerged as a popular genre wherein the fighter assumed his place among the private dicks, rebel cops, and desperate underdogs mired in America’s expanding urban landscape.

Smash Hit uses 20 films as the basis of a hard-nosed exploration as to how the genre held a bloody mirror to 20th century America’s most prominent social anxieties, elucidating two conjoined mediums that serve as bellwether to an ever-shifting cultural zeitgeist.

“David Curcio’s absorbing, fascinating book sent me down a rabbit hole of so many memorable movies….and Smash Hit belongs in the company of the best of them.” -Donald McRae, The Guardian

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