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Topical Budget 485-2: Georges Carpentier's Tribute (1920)


Main image of Topical Budget 485-2: Georges Carpentier's Tribute (1920)
35mm, black and white, 26 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Company

The boxer and war hero George Carpentier lays a wreath at the Cenotaph.

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Georges Carpentier (1894-1975) was one of Europe's greatest boxers. He was born in Lens, France, to a mining family, and worked down the pit himself from the age of twelve. After being talent-spotted by François Descamps, who ran a local boxing gym, he began serious training, which led to small-scale tours and exhibition bouts.

Carpentier won his first competitive fight in 1907, beating Charles Bourgeois in four rounds. His first national title came the following year, when he was crowned French featherweight champion, and as his frame filled out he became French and European welterweight champion in 1911, middleweight in 1912, and finally defeating Bombardier Billy Wells twice to become European heavyweight champion in 1913. (Wells would later become a minor footnote in British film history in 1948, when he was cast as the musclebound man wielding the gong at the start of films distributed by the Rank Organisation).

Shortly after war broke out, Carpentier joined up for service in France's aviation division, and would also perform in exhibition bouts as entertainment for American soldiers stationed in France. Although his reputation on both sides of the Atlantic was sky-high, the war badly damaged his finances, so he returned to the ring in 1919 to defend his title. He succeeded, and also became world light-heavyweight champion after defeating Battling Levinsky in October 1920. At this point, he was at the apex of his career. Both a sporting and military hero (he was decorated with the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille Militaire), he was clearly the ideal man to represent France in the wreath-laying ceremony shown in this Topical Budget newsreel.

Carpentier's biggest fight was staged in July 1921, a few months later, and was covered in Exit the Best-Loved Boxer the World has Known (Topical Budget 514-2, 1921)

Michael Brooke

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