Golden Boy (1939)

Approved   |    |  Drama, Romance, Sport


Golden Boy (1939) Poster

Despite his musical talent, Joe Bonaparte wants to be a boxer.


6.9/10
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  • William Holden in Golden Boy (1939)
  • William Holden in Golden Boy (1939)
  • William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck in Golden Boy (1939)
  • William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck in Golden Boy (1939)
  • Sam Levene in Golden Boy (1939)
  • William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Lee J. Cobb, Beatrice Blinn, Sam Levene, and William H. Strauss in Golden Boy (1939)

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12 January 2006 | mik-19
7
| Heavy-handed but charismatic
"They are good for only one thing now - slugging!", Joe Bonaparte says with self-disgust, looking down at his broken hands after a middleweight prize fight at Madison Sqare Garden.

Joe had the option to be a great classical violinist, but the girl he was in love with wet his appetite for the quick buck and the American dream. "It's a big city, little people don't stand a chance", says Lorna, egging him up, playing up to his male ego. "Money's the answer". And the poor Italian immigrant kid grabs the bait, hangs up the violin and sells out.

'Golden Boy' is a piece of vintage Americana that is a bit hard to take today. Clifford Odets' controversial play was openly socialist and crammed with sudden, badly integrated political insights about "competetive civilization" and "a man hits his wife, and it's the first step towards fascism". It is all about the flip side of the American dream and gets a bit heavy-handed at times.

Lee J. Cobb is almost unbearably schmaltzy as the all-embracing, tearful Italian Papa, whereas Adolphe Menjou balances his performance carefully as the basically benign boxing promoter whose mistress is Lorna, Joe's chosen one, "just a dame from Newark" as she presents herself.

Barbara Stanwyck is more or less going through the motions as the hard-as-nails Lorna, and the real star of the picture is 21 year old newcomer William Holden, impossibly handsome and hunky, starting out with perfectly tousled curly hair. His performance is as yet immature and unfinished, but he has his moments and makes up for a shaky ride with loads of charisma, and he more than holds his own in the climactic title fight at the Garden, playing against the Chocolate Drop, "the pride of Harlem" in this race-segregated boxing haven.

'Golden Boy' is not, though, one of director Mamoulian's happier efforts. It is far too maudlin to look like anything Mamoulian ever did, it is not like him to lay it on this thick. It has none of the quirks or edge from 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' among others, but it is lushly, richly orchestrated in the vein of 19th century European music.

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Genres

Drama | Romance | Sport

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