Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: Golden Boy

I've seen several reviews for 1939's Golden Boy that call it a "dated melodrama." Unfortunately, I am inclined to agree with them. I was actually looking forward to watching this, one of filmdom's most famous boxing themed pictures, and thought based on the personnel involved I would thoroughly enjoy it, as I'm a pretty big Barbara Stanwyck fan. But alas, no go.

It was a success on Broadway but much of the staginess translates to the screen. Columbia Studios supposedly wanted to borrow Tyrone Power from 20th Century-Fox to play the title role and John Garfield, over at Warner Brothers, was also very interested, but when the dust settled, it was a very young William Holden who won the part of Joe Bonaparte, a poor kid from rough and tumble New York whose love of the violin is sacrificed for the easy money and fame he gains from his natural abilities as a boxer. As his fight manager, Adolph Menjou does what Adolph Menjou does best. Plays a self absorbed, serio-comic cynic with hard boiled wise cracks aplenty. Stanwyck plays Lorna, Menjou's tough cookie girlfriend who gets taken for granted more than she'd like.

Although I like much of Holden's later work (Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17) he just seems too green and inexperienced for the role. And as earlier stated, Barbara Stanwyck already had so many great performances under her belt, I expected her Lorna to be close to perfection. But I just couldn't believe that her hard edged moll could fall for a little hot head like Joe Bonaparte. Still, behind the scenes, Stanwyck took Holden under her wing, helped his career and they became lifelong friends.

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