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When Giants Fought (1926)


Main image of When Giants Fought (1926)
35mm, black and white, silent, 2194 feet
DirectorHarry B. Parkinson
Production CompanyFrederick White Company
ScriptB.E. Doxat-Pratt
StoryAndrew Soutar

Cast: Joe Beckett (Tom Cribb); Frank Craig (the Negro Boxer [Thomas] Molyneux); Wyndham Guise (Storyteller); James Knight (Grenadier); George Wynn (Sailor)

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Unable to decide which of two suitors she should marry, a young woman gambles on the outcome of a boxing championship.

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When Giants Fought (d. Harry B. Parkinson, 1926) is one of a series of boxing films under the title Romances of the Prize-Ring. A love story turns on the legendary fight between Tom Molyneaux (Frank Craig), the first American heavyweight boxing champion (and former slave) and the British heavyweight champion Tom Cribb (Joe Beckett) that took place at Thistleton Gap, Rutland. The recreation of this bout contains the most dynamic and interesting sequences of the film.

The fight swings nerve-rackingly from one round to the next. Tom Cribb has the backing of the British public while Molyneaux, we are told, "wasn't fighting only Tom Cribb, the Champion of England but the whole world of white people who had treated his race like dirt", a surprisingly liberal reflection that sits awkwardly among the racial slurs hurled in Molyneaux's direction.

Director Harry B. Parkinson made a career in creating short, popular film series. His Tense Moments From Opera (1924) and Master Films Song Album (1921) simply used the medium of film to illustrate what was already familiar to an audience. This is true of When Giants Fought. The story is introduced as an old drinking yarn and told in flashback. The camera is static, and the drama unfolds in short illustrative bursts framed like a postcard. Strong lighting creates dramatic lines and adds to the tension.

The film uses black rather than white actors 'blacked up'. Another notable Parkinson film is Cosmopolitan London (1924), the first of the Wonderful London series, which portrays scenes from various ethnic neighbourhoods and businesses including East End London's Chinatown, a Negro bar and 'Asiatic-lascars' sitting in the courtyard of their boarding house.

Ann Ogidi

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Complete film (30:50)