• U.S.

Cinema: Boxers Triumph

2 minute read

In 1912 Congress made the transportation of prizefight films in interstate commerce a criminal offense ($1,000 fine, a year in prison, or both). Widespread bootlegging weakened this ban and unhampered radio broadcasts made it almost meaningless, but it stayed on the books until last week. Then Franklin Roosevelt scratched his name to a repealing act passed by Congress, after 28 years making the movement of fight films over State lines legal.

Many grateful theatre managers and fight fans had forgotten why the ban had been imposed. Not so the man who lifted it, New Jersey’s Senator William Warren Barbour, now 51 and a fine figure of a Republican.

Reason for the 1912 law was Congress’ fear that action pictures of the conquests of big, black Champion Jack Johnson (who not only mauled white fisticuffers but married a white woman) would cause race riots. Of all the bumper crop of white hopes raised to beat Johnson, the choice of Roosevelt I and of Gentleman Jim Corbett was the then reigning national amateur heavyweight champion, 22-year-old Warren Barbour. Boxer Barbour, son of a wealthy thread manufacturer and known to his many admirers as “The Millionaire Kid,” was not averse, but his parents dissuaded him from turning professional. Last year, with another and more popular Negro champion on the throne, Senator Barbour thought it time to introduce his bill, got his friend Jack Dempsey to tell a Congressional committee that the movie ban was an archaic handicap to the manly sport. Republican Barbour is now training for a fast go with Democrat James Cromwell (an amateur boxer who once went a few exhibition rounds with Tommy Loughran) for his Senate seat.

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