|Don Most, Ron Howard, and Anson Williams on Happy Days. Note the painting behind them.|
|Dempsey and Firpo (1924) by George Bellows.|
Skip forward to Season 5's "The Apartment," i.e. the episode we're reviewing this week. The plot has nerdy protagonist Richie (Ron Howard) moving into a dumpy apartment with his idiot pals Ralph (Donny Most) and Potsie (Anson Williams). The place is pretty desolate when they move in, but the boys decorate it somewhat. One of their additions is a distinctive painting of a boxing match with one fighter hitting his opponent so hard that he falls out of the ring and into the audience. Since our three roommates spend the entire episode fighting, that artwork is very fitting for their living room wall. That dramatic painting looked vaguely familiar to me, so I checked into its history.
I learned that this was Dempsey and Firpo (1924) by acclaimed American painter George Bellows. The Happy Days kids must only have a print, since the real one is in the Whitney in New York. The work depicts an absolutely bonkers 1923 bout between then-champ Jack Dempsey, known as The Manassa Mauler for his brutal, graceless style, and a relatively unknown Argentinian challenger named Luis Angel Firpo. That's Dempsey getting knocked out of the ring. Astonishingly, the champ went on to win that fight! This Dempsy-Firpo fight sounds like one of the most thrilling events in sports history, and I might've never heard of it had it not been for Happy Days.
Come to think of it, maybe that painting is possessed. Ralph, Richie, and Potsie had never argued with this intensity before. Could it be that the painting itself is guiding their behavior and bringing out their combative side? You can ponder this issue and more as you listen to our review of "The Apartment."