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Palooka (1934)

Unrated | | Comedy, Music | 26 January 1934 (USA)
Knobby discovers young hunk Palooka and trains him to fight the reigning champ, also drunken sot, Al McSwatt.


Benjamin Stoloff


Ham Fisher (comic strip creator), Jack Jevne (screen play) | 4 more credits »


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Manager Knobby Walsh discovers young hunk Joe Palooka and trains him to fight the champ. Mobsters try to make life tough for Joe and his socialite girlfriend Anne. Cameos by several boxing stars.

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Complete credited cast:
Jimmy Durante ... Knobby Walsh
Lupe Velez ... Nina Madero
Stuart Erwin ... Joe Palooka
Marjorie Rambeau ... Mayme Palooka
Robert Armstrong ... Pete Palooka
Mary Carlisle ... Anne Howe
William Cagney ... Al McSwatt
Thelma Todd ... Trixie
Franklyn Ardell ... Doc Wise
Tom Dugan ... Whitey
Louise Beavers ... Crystal
Fred 'Snowflake' Toones ... Smokey (as Snowflake)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Gus Arnheim Gus Arnheim ... Orchestra Bandleader


Mayme walks out on her husband, Pete Palooka, after he wins the middleweight championship and shows his proclivity for life in the fast lane. She raises son Joe on a farm, by herself. When slippery fight manager Knobby Walsh happens to discover Joe's surprising punching power, he signs him. With current champion Al McSwatt needing an easy opponent, Walsh gets Joe the fight. Palooka steals the championship( and girlfriend Nina Madero) from McSwatt when McSwatt shows up for the fight drunk. Now it's Joe's turn to live in the fast lane, winning fights(that are set ups by Walsh) and drinking hard with vamp Nina. However, when McSwatt and his manager trick Joe into a rematch, it's time to test his real boxing talent. Written by Gary Jackson <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Jimmy Durante says: "What a pitchur. I'm a second Don Juan, and twice as good as de foist! It's got actin'! It's got dames! It's got me! It's heart renderin"! It's devastatin'! It's got pathology! Hot-cha-cha!" (Print Ad- Pittsburgh Press, ((Pittsburgh Penna.)) 18 February 1934)


Comedy | Music


Unrated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

26 January 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Joe Palooka See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (re-release)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


United Artists/Reliance production #8200. See more »


Doc Wise: He's no more a champ than you're an Indian.
Knobby Walsh: I am an Indian; and my name is Sittin' Pretty.
See more »


Followed by Joe Palooka in The Counterpunch (1949) See more »


Inka Dinka Doo
(1933) (uncredited)
Lyrics by Jimmy Durante
Music by Ben Ryan
Played as dance and background music at the Paradise nightclub
Also played with Jimmy Durante singing
Reprised as background music at the end
See more »

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User Reviews

Full of clichés, but still very likable.
13 November 2009 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

Wow. PALOOKA might have just about every boxing cliché known to films, yet somehow it manages to be very likable and a great film for lovers of old B-movies. Much of this is because the dialog hums and the stars do the most with the material.

Stu Erwin plays Joe Palooka--a farm boy who is discovered by a boxing promoter (Jimmy Durante) and becomes a nation-wide sensation. Erwin is good as a country boy though he is an odd choice to play the title character. In the comic, Joe was a heavyweight boxer but Erwin is pretty scrawny--and far from physically imposing. Despite the odd casting, Erwin is pretty good. Plus, able supporting characters help his performance quite a bit.

I am surprised to admit this, but probably the best actor in the film was Jimmy Durante. In the past I have been HIGHLY critical of some of his films, though the fault wasn't entirely Durante's. MGM foolishly paired him with Buster Keaton in sound films--even though Keaton's style was the polar opposite of Durante's. Keaton was a silent comic and Durante was brash and loud--very, very loud! Here, however, his insanely loud and dynamic persona actually works--much like it did in Hollywood PARTY. I liked how he constantly poked fun at himself and the ending with him and his new wife was wonderful--you just have to see it to believe it.

As for the plot, there are so many familiar plot elements--the bad woman who turns Joe's attention away from his virtuous girlfriend and boxing, the mother who is determined that her son won't throw his life away in the ring, the estranged father, etc., etc., etc.. Yet, despite all this it is also highly entertaining and fun throughout. A very good B film that is more enjoyable and fun than its score of 6 would usually indicate.

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