small time story about a guy who sees himself as a big timer...
... but I liked it for what it was - a B feature film of the early 30's from a studio - Columbia - that did not have a lot of resources at the time. Constance Cummings gave quite a few good performances in these early talkies over at poverty row Columbia, and she does a good job here too. At first blush it might seem Ben Lyon, as a man short on character with big appetites, may be giving a lackluster performance, but it can be harder to play a shallow person more convincingly than a deep one, and that's what Ben is tasked to do here and succeeds at doing.
Ben Lyon plays Cooky Bradford. He runs a lunch counter and his mouth about his big plans by day and gets fights when he can at night through his manager Pop Baldwin. Heavily involved in the business is Pop's daughter, Honey (Constance Cummings). Pop has taught Honey well - she knows how to train fighters and how to pick out talent. However, she has one perceived shortcoming that is insurmountable in this business in 1932 - she's a woman. So when Dad dies suddenly Honey has double trouble on her hands. Not only has she lost a beloved father, she has inherited a business in which none of her potential clients would ever have a woman as a manager - save one. Cooky agrees to let her continue as his manager partly out of fondness for Honey and partly out of loyalty to deceased Pop.
The two eventually get married, but you get the feeling that Honey is marrying Cooky more than Cooky is marrying Honey - he seems to have affection for her, just not the same kind of deep love Honey has for him. A socialite (Thelma Todd) comes along and gives Cooky his big break - a fight at a charity event. Cooky gets noticed and begins to climb the ladder to the championship. However, before he even gets to the top he starts letting the money and his new high class friends go to his head. He stops training and starts eating. Against Honey's wishes she and Cooky move into an apartment and a lifestyle they cannot afford and then comes the knockout punch - from a third rate fighter at that. If anyone here thinks Thelma Todd cannot act watch her expression as she watches Cooky lose this crucial fight. She starts out watching with possessive admiration. As the fight wears on and Cooky is looking like the washed out fighter he is, you can practically see her stomach turn in revulsion as she looks at him. Cooky turns his back on Honey - he thinks she told the third rate fighter about his stomach being his weak spot to put Cooky in his place. When he becomes a has-been his high class friends desert him.
Now Cooky is a skid row fighter and Honey is the power behind the throne in the office of a fight manager/promoter that appreciates her both professionally and personally and wants to marry her. How will all of this work out? Will it work out? Watch and find out.
As you can see, there is nothing particularly unique in what goes on here, but it is interesting watching it all play out. I'd recommend it to fans of the early 30's films. Do note that in no way could this be considered a precode. It's squeaky clean for its era.
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