CBC Digital Archives

Fighting Words: Are critics frustrated failures?

The long-running Fighting Words ranked among the most intelligent, provocative and popular shows of its day. It was a panel show with a simple premise: viewers send in controversial quotations and the panellists discuss them. From 1953 to 1962, host Nathan Cohen presided over verbal bombshells and spirited arguments of prominent thinkers, artists and controversialists, including Pierre Trudeau, Irving Layton, Robertson Davies, Norman Mailer, Peter Ustinov and many more. Watch the fireworks as the CBC Digital Archives features 20 of the most lively, fascinating and provocative panels in CBC history.

Tempers flare as novelist Morley Callaghan goes head-to-head with critic Tony Emery, journalist Ralph Allen and Saturday Night editor Arnold Edinborough over the notion that "critics are the men who have failed in literature and in art." Saturday Night had just published Emery's negative review of Callaghan's new novel and Callaghan won't take that lying down, making for some heated debate on this 1960 panel. 
• Morley Callaghan also had fighting fists to back up his words. An enthusiastic boxer, he once floored Ernest Hemingway in a match in 1929. The timekeeper, author F. Scott Fitzgerald, let the round go on too long, tiring Hemingway out. When Fitzgerald admitted his mistake, Hemingway replied, "All right, Scott... if you want to see me getting the shit kicked out of me, just say so. Only don't say you made a mistake."
Medium: Television
Program: Fighting Words
Broadcast Date: Dec. 11, 1961
Guest(s): Ralph Allen, Morley Callaghan, Arnold Edinborough, Tony Emery
Host: Nathan Cohen
Duration: 19:43

Last updated: March 20, 2012

Page consulted on March 25, 2014

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