A Crying Shame

As the waterworks flow for "Harry Potter," scientists declare that the all-but forgotten remake "The Champ" is the saddest movie of all. Forgive our laughter...

Without giving away anything for the three or four people who've yet to see the film, there are some tear-jerking scenes in the gripping "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2."

Maybe the waterworks are spurred by the deaths of characters we've become attached through via all those books and movies. Or maybe we're shedding tears over the end of the series and lost youth – Harry's and perhaps our own.

If we’re guilty of reading too much into what’s a visceral impulse, that’s nothing compared to a scientific finding that basically pegs the end of the all-but-forgotten 1979 remake of “The Champ” as the saddest movie scene of them all. In fact the scene is so sad, shrinks use it in experiments on sadness, according to a fascinating recent story on Smithsonian.com, which we stumbled onto via Moviefone.

Forgive us, though, if we’re snickering, especially given the subject material. At the end of the movie, a boy (Ricky Schroder, before he was known as Rick) cries over his dead boxer dad (Jon Voight, before he was known as Angelina Jolie's father), begging him to “Wake up!” The movie, though, is otherwise largely forgettable, and lacks the fuller emotional punch packed by the 1931 original starring Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery.

We’re not heartless. Far from it. But the strongest tear-provoking scenes in our memory are associated with, frankly, much better films than the 1979 “Champ” reboot: The beginning of “Up” and the end of Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights." “Bambi” and “Old Yeller.” “E.T.” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

The most emotional moments are driven by stories and characters we’re deeply connected to, as shown by the response to the end of the “Harry Potter” movies, the most successful film series in Hollywood history (check out this Daily Beast collection of videos of fans crying and tweeting their accounts of blubbering over the finale). The reaction also speaks to the power of the communal experience of sitting in the dark with strangers and letting the tears flow unabashed.

Or to paraphrase the end of "Love Story," perhaps the most shameless cinematic tearjerker of them all, crying in the movies means never having to say you’re sorry.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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