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The Young Fighter (The Young Fighter: A Reality Film) (US 1953)

00:00 Introduction by Tom Hurwitz, ASC, Leo Hurwitz’s son
06:06 The Young Fighter

The Young Fighter (The Young Fighter: A Reality Film) (US 1953)
Producer and director: Leo Hurwitz
Cinematographer: Fons Iannelli
A Filmscope Production
Broadcast by CBS on Omnibus

Air date: December 20, 1953
Sound: sound
Color: b/w
Length (in feet): 2,740 ft.
Length (in reels): 3
Running time: 29 min.
Frame rate: 24 fps

Preserved from a 16mm composite print at Cinema Arts Laboratory
Digitized by Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services
Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts; additional funding by the Rohauer Collection Foundation

We would like to thank the estate of Leo Hurwitz for the permission to put this film online. 

The Young Fighter is Leo Hurwitz and Fons Iannelli’s second documentary, after Emergency Ward, to use portable, sync-sound filming equipment to achieve the immediacy of great photojournalism. Hurwitz independently produced and directed The Young Fighter, with Iannelli serving as cinematographer. The film was offered to Robert Saudek, producer of the CBS Omnibus magazine show, and was aired on a program hosted by Alistair Cooke that featured segments with Helen Hayes, Robert Strauss, John Lund, and Heywood Hale Broun, among others. Hurwitz created a moving and visceral vignette of 22-year-old boxer Ray Drake (1930–2007) as he trains for his next middleweight bout. Hurwitz underlines the stress placed on this young man, who began life as a foundling and dreamed of succeeding as both a champion boxer and a loving family man. Hurwitz, still blacklisted and working without formal credit, deftly exposes the manipulative psychological control techniques employed by Drake’s boxing manager, Alex Koskowitz, and his fight trainer, Louie Breitbart. Both men were professional furriers in Koskowitz’s shop and worked with up-and-coming fighters in the hopes of developing a champion. Their control extended to Drake’s personal life, exercising a heavy handed influence on his young wife, Helen, and their infant son, Petey. Drake was an active professional boxer from August 8, 1953, to March 12, 1956, recording 29 bouts: 21 wins, 7 losses, and 1 draw. Three years after this film was made, he retired from the ring and slipped away from public view. Koskowitz was interviewed by the Manhattan District Attorney John Bonomi in 1954 about his relationship with organized crime member Tony “Ducks” Corallo. Koskowitz stated that Corallo used his mob influence to secure matches for Drake at Madison Square Garden.

The Young Fighter is direct cinema in its purest form and was a great success on Omnibus. It also had a profound impact on the work of Robert Drew, Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles, and D. A. Pennebaker, as seen in their subsequent ventures with this new form pioneered by Hurwitz. Other films were conceived by Hurwitz for this series on the lives of ordinary people. Midway through the filming of Deaf Boy, Hurwitz’s anonymity was blown at CBS and he left the project. It was completed by others, but never aired. A fourth film about life in the former Dust Bowl was never made.