This is a great movie, and for a lot of different reasons. I've read the comments from the naysayers on this board, and it's too bad modern tastes have become so jaded as to dismiss a film that relies on values instead of shoot 'em ups. If I hadn't read that James Cagney was dubbed for his dialog in the story, I never would have known; give the guy some credit, he was eighty four years old when he made the movie. Wheelchair bound or not, I thought it was an exceptional performance.
Oddly I had never even heard of the movie until reviewing Cagney's film credits, and I managed to source a DVD copy through a private collector. If you listen closely enough, you'll take away two great pearls of wisdom from Terrible Joe - age reduces everything, and you can make a rock out of glass if you really want it bad enough. That rock in turn becomes a diamond by the end of the picture, and will elicit the same response as Cagney's finale in "Angels With Dirty Faces", but for a different reason.
Some great surprises here - the first sit up and take notice scene was Floyd Patterson appearing as himself, only to be followed by one of the greatest self promoters of all time, New York Mayor Ed Koch as just that, a boxing promoter! He's only on screen for a short time, and you'll wonder if that's really him or not.
As for the story, you might expect it to dissolve into cliché once it gets under way, but there are enough twists to keep you focused. As Joe Moran's granddaughter, Ellen Barkin grows into the role as the movie progresses, and her character develops as a result of her involvement with boyfriend Nick (Peter Gallagher) and the book deal with Poppa. As Moran's best friend Troy, Art Carney also holds a few keys of wisdom that he shares with Ronnie (Barkin) and the viewer. Cagney and Carney - funny how they're separated by one letter, but they show that they're pros in scene after scene.
Listen, if you're a Cagney fan, you owe yourself a viewing of his swan song performance as Terrible Joe Moran. You won't come away feeling sorry for him as some would have it; quite the opposite, you'll get a warm feeling for one of the greatest actors of all time.
NOTE**** The boxing scenes of young Joe Moran are from Jimmy Cagney's 1940 film, "City for Conquest".