Right Cross

The boxing drama Right Cross (1950) starred Ricardo Montalbán as Johnny Monterez, a Mexican champion fighter whose insecurities over his own heritage nearly cost him the woman he loves. The film begins as Johnny’s sickly old promoter, Sean O’Malley (Lionel Barrymore), worries that he will soon lose Monterez as a client to more ambitious representation. With his health failing, Sean assigns the task of grooming the boxer to his daughter, Pat (June Allyson). Johnny and Pat are lovers but his sensitivity over being Mexican causes him to misperceive harmless comments as insults, resulting in heated arguments between the two. Their mutual friend, an alcoholic sports reporter named Rick Gavery (Dick Powell), often acts as a mediator; Rick also loves Pat, but knows that her heart belongs to Johnny.

After Monterez injures his hand in a sparring match, he begins to fear for his career. He keeps his condition a secret, worrying that if he is not rich and famous, Pat will fall out of love with him. Seeking a big payday, Johnny goes on to make a profitable deal with a rival promoter who signs him for a title bout. Shortly after hearing the news, Sean O’Malley dies—and Pat blames Johnny for her father’s death. She turns to Rick for consolation, and while he has a clear opportunity to romance her, he instead plays Cupid and tries to mend fences between her and Johnny, with little success. Monterez loses the title bout after his competitor exploits his hidden weakness; after the fight, Johnny finally breaks his hand on Rick’s face when provoked, and his boxing career is suddenly over. Ultimately Pat and Rick forgive Johnny, who learns that his friends love him, regardless of his stature as champion.

Right Cross was the second 1950 film (after The Reformer and the Redhead) to feature the real-life couple of Dick Powell and June Allyson—although here Powell remains on the sidelines as Allyson’s friend rather than her romantic partner. While the fight sequences are technically proficient, Right Cross is a relationship movie that happens to be about a boxer. Directed by John Sturges, critics favorably received the film as a departure from typical boxing fare due to Charles Schnee’s dialogue-heavy script and the hero’s loss of the title bout at the climax of the film. Also daring is the handling of Johnny’s persecution complex. There are no acts of prejudice depicted in the film, except for those enacted by Johnny himself: He will not allow Pat to meet his family, and refuses to allow his sister to date a white man, labeling him a “gringo.” Only after he is convinced that Pat loves him for who he is does he take her to break bread with his family.

Raksin’s score for Right Cross is minimal, consisting only of main and end titles, plus a brief expositional cue midway through the first reel (added a month after the rest of the film’s music was recorded). Raksin characterizes Johnny with a Mexican-flavored main theme, comprised of a searching melody over a persistent, jabbing accompaniment. The material is cheerful and proud, representative of the boxer’s newly enlightened attitude at the end of the film once he quits feeling sorry for himself. Variety’s reviewer curiously complained that “The music score by David Raksin intrudes too often,” perhaps referring to non-Raksin source music that also appears in the film (not included here) but it would be hard to find a film with a score that intrudes less than Raksin’s music for Right Cross.

28. Main Title
A driving rendition of Raksin’s main theme for Johnny Monterez (Ricardo Montalbán) underscores the opening titles, which play out over an empty boxing ring. The confident melody passes from strings to trumpets over jabbing accompaniment before the film transitions to an establishing shot of New York. This cue is not among those surviving on the film’s master tapes (a ¼″ reel made from what were originally optical tracks) and has thus been mastered from the finished film itself—hence the opening roars of Leo the Lion.
29. Bridge B
Early in the film, Raksin voices his primary material on romantic saxophone for Pat O’Malley (June Allyson) when she visits Johnny at his training camp. After the two embrace, the main title’s accompanimental rhythm gently propels the cue as they walk toward the ring and he teases her for expressing concern that he is considering signing with a rival promoter. (This is the final minute of a three-and-a-half minute cue, but the first part, “Bridge A,” has been lost. The “Bridge” of the title refers to the “bridging” of scenes in the story.)
30. End Title and Cast
At the conclusion of the film, Johnny’s boxing career ends due to his broken hand, but it matters not: he realizes that his friends love him even if he is not the champ. He takes Pat to celebrate with his family and the score’s signature rhythm seeps in as their friend, Rick (Dick Powell), resolves to go for a drink with Johnny’s assistant, Gump (David Fresco). The end titles are scored with an optimistic reprisal of the main theme over a shot of the boxing ring. —