Contender The Musical The Story of Tommy Farr
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A Musical based on the life of Tommy Farr
By MAL POPE 2005


It's a sweltering August night in New York City in 1937. In the distance can be heard the crackle of another lightening storm which is threatening to further postpone the main event. The crowd is full of celebrities. From the world of Entertainment, Douglas Fairbanks Senior, George Raft and Al Johnson. Representing Baseball, the legendary Babe Ruth. Former boxing greats Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey rub shoulders with New Your Joe Louis Versus Tommy Farr. Yankee Stadium ProgrammeMayor La Guardia and the Marquess of Queensbury. Also there are the mobsters who control boxing, who control New York itself. Two young men, exactly the same age, stride into the centre of the ring. Both carry the great weight of expectation and aspiration of their respective peoples. Across the States, African Americans are gathered around their radio sets to cheer on Joe Louis. The Brown Bomber is the grandson of an Alabama slave. In the USA boxing has long been the domain of white athletes. Once again he has to prove to himself and the rest of the nation that he is the best in the world. All over Britain people meet in the middle of the night to support Tommy Farr. Tommy is the son of an Irish, bare-knuckle fighter who had been attracted to Wales by the mines. One boxing expert has given Tommy as much chance of beating Louis as Shirley Temple! Tommy has chosen to risk losing his life in the free air rather than die like so many of his friends have whilst mining underground. As his mentor Joby Churchill said, 'What's the difference between murder above ground as below it'. Many homes have families huddled around crystal sets, others have banded together in Clubs, singing and dancing until the moment arrives and the room grows silent.

(Music - CD Track 1 Opening Scene the Fight)

Joe Louis Versus Tommy Farr. Yankee Stadium Match ReportThe Sound of Gladiators entering the arena. The solo trumpet summons the fighters. The last minute of original commentary from the fight paints a scene where Tommy Farr is all over the champ, Joe Louis. It sounds like a great British victory. As the bell sounds for the end of the fight, the ring is engulfed by well wishes, hangers on and police who try to restore order. In Wales miners are gathered around radio sets listening to this first transatlantic sporting broadcast. They jump up punching the air in triumph at an obvious Farr win. The music fades as the announcer says the referee has gathered up the score cards. (We don't hear the verdict!)

For Tommy Farr, the Joe Louis fight at Yankee Stadium was a defining moment but to understand the man we must understand his background. What where the circumstances that made this average young boxer into the British and Empire Champion and World Title Contender.

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