Max Baer’s Last Right Hook
Blending fact and fiction with exuberant abandon, Avida Livny’s “what-if” Israeli movie, Max Baer’s Last Right Hook, recreates an event that could well have happened.
Currently being presented online by the Toronto Jewish Film Foundation, it stars the irrepressible Max Baer (1909-1959), who was the half-Jewish U.S. heavyweight boxing champion from 1934 to 1935.
Bending the truth to suit her purpose, Livny claims he arrived in British Mandate Palestine in 1942 to appear in what would be his last match. His opponent was Dieter Schatzschneider, a German prisoner-of-war and diehard Nazi.
The match was arranged by Yaacov Gendelmier (Yair Rubin), an American promotor who sought to recreate the historic 1933 pugilistic encounter during which Baer knocked out Max Schmeling, the German heavyweight title holder, in the tenth round.
With German forces in Libya bearing down on Egypt and Palestine in that fateful year of World War II, Gendelmier was certain this sporting spectacle would attract a huge crowd in Tel Aviv.
He found Baer’s German opponent in a British POW camp. At first, Schatzschneider — a professional boxer before his conscription into the German army — rejected Gendelmier’s invitation to compete against Baer (Miki Leon). But he changed his mind after Gendelmier threatened him.
This sounds like a first-rate story, but wait, it might not be true. It could be the stuff of intricately spun fantasy.
The plot thickens when Gendelmier’s son, Lou, a spitting image of his father, arrives in Israel to meet the old-timers who were associated with that legendary match. Among them are a sportswriter who covered it for a daily Hebrew-language newspaper, a cinematographer who filmed it, and an actress who fell in love with Baer.
The reporter discloses that Baer was a bon vivant who didn’t even bother to train for the match. He spent his days exploring Tel Aviv and his nights with Rosa Klinger (Attel Kovenska), an actress who aspired to make it Hollywood. Baer was so infatuated with this gorgeous woman that he promised to leave his wife. Gendelmier was not amused by their romance, fearing that Rosa was distracting Baer from his training regimen.
Nissim Levy (Yosef Carmon), the cameraman, admitted he had not actually filmed the match, but had instead sub-contracted the job to one of his friends, Elhanan. Eager to see the cinematic version of the Baer/Schatzschneider fight, Lou hurried over to Elhanan’s daughter’s house and, much to his surprise and joy, found the film in a cardboard box in a storage shed.
To Lou’s utter frustration, the film was incomplete, but there was enough of it so that he could watch the match for the first time. Surprisingly enough, Baer behaved passively in the ring as the German pummelled and bruised him. But then Baer woke up and landed a mighty blow whose reverberations shook the stadium. Or so Livny claims.
I would not advise you to google this event for further information. You will not find it anywhere, since it falls under the category of what Donald Trump would describe as fake news. Yet it exudes an aura of plausibility that viewers will most likely appreciate, if not enjoy.