|Index||6 reviews in total|
Terrific precode boxing film with Ben Lyon as the boxer and Constance
Cummings as his manager/wife.
Snappy dialog helps move this story as Lyon starts to succeed but falls prey to a swelled head and floozy socialite Thelma Todd. Will there be redemption? Lyon is very handsome and has a great voice; Cummings is gorgeous. Each should have had better film careers. They were big names in early talkies but petered out by the middle of the decade.
Supporting cast includes Tom Dugan, Nat Pendleton, Charley Grapewin, Irving Bacon, Russell Hopton, Robert Emmett O'Connor, and Selmer Jackson.
Worth a look.
... But hard not to like.
Ben Lyon is a cocky boxer. The marvelous Constance Cummings plays a gal who becomes both his manager and his wife.
Lyon does a good job in the fight scenes. He is also appealing when not in the ring: His character has an attitude about women's being in their place. Yet, his wife is managing him. And Thelma Todd is a society girl who manages him in her way, too.
The supporting cast is good. We even have Nat Pendleton in a small part.
It's not memorable. It's not a naughty sort of pre-Code film. You'll like it, though.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Beautiful Constance Cummings was discovered by Goldwyn who was looking
for an actress to co-star with Ronald Colman. Unfortunately, her
inexperience showed but he (Colman) offered her advice, not to go back
home licked but to be herself. About the same time as she took his
advice she was offered a Columbia contract as well as being named a
Wampas Baby Star of 1931. For every interesting part ("The Guilty
Generation", "Movie Crazy" etc) there was a so-so one. "The Big Timer"
gave Constance an unusual role - she plays "Honey", a female fight
promoter who inherits her father's stable of fighters, among which is
Ben Lyon, a hamburger stand operator who aspires to boxing heights.
"Cooky" Bradford is a big talker who also wants to be a big timer but
only Honey believes in him and when all the fighters desert her after
her father's death, "Cooky" becomes her protégé. And with the fighting
know how that Honey has learned from hanging around her pop's gym
"Cooky" is going to the top!!
Of course this wouldn't be a proper boxing movie without the "hero gets a swelled head and becomes a down and out" plot. In this one - enter slinky society girl Kay (luscious Thelma Todd) who shows "Cooky" that if you play your cards right in this game (throwing a few fights, only fighting mugs etc) riches and Park Avenue apartments can be yours for the asking.
Ben Lyon is good but Constance Cummings really elevates this movie with her few emotional scenes. That includes the old "let's give him a surprise birthday party" but, unfortunately, "Cooky" is dancing the night away at Kay's penthouse. Very similar to a plot line from "The Broadway Melody"(1929). Best scene by far is the fight scene at the very end - but it's not in the ring. "Cooky", really down and out by this time, is lured to the city's top fight manager (Honey just happens to run the promotions) - she realises that "Cooky" is outside and talks up his yellow streak and the fact that he has gone to seed!! Of course he comes in fighting and together with burly Nat Pendleton they put on a real smasheroo!! demolishing the office but regaining Honey's love and respect at the fade out!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
... 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
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.
In early Hollywood films, the few occasions when they took the time to
actually give some depth and development to a female character, the
woman was either portrayed as a saint or as bad news. They go the saint
route in "The Big Timer" (1932); which in this case means standing
behind your man for life, no matter how boorish and stupid his
"She" is Honey Baldwin, played by Constance Cummings who had much the same cute little Irish girl look as Nancy Carroll. Honey's man is Cooky Bradford (Ben Lyon), so named because he cooks hamburgers at a lunch wagon. Cooky also works for Honey's father Pop as a sparring partner for the boxers he manages. When Pop dies, Honey tries to carry on his gym and fight management business but only Cooky and their trainer Schultzy can overcome their prejudices and work for a woman. One of the writers (Dorothy Howell) was a woman, which might explain these unlikely plot elements.
Honey gets Cooky his first professional fight. He wins and earns a ten-dollar lucky gold piece. For some reason this inspires them to get married. But the fight game is a struggle and the married Cooky is soon back making burgers (the burger jokes are what passes for humor in this film). Finally Honey is able to get Cooky on the card for a charity match and he begins climbing to the top of his light middleweight classification.
Although Lyon looks wimpy, and his character is more slack-jawed retard than manly boxer, he somehow becomes the boy toy of Kay Mitchell (Thelma Todd), a wily society dame. This was a different sort of role for Todd, who generally played an airhead with a heart of gold; and whose real strength was comedic stuff. But she was trying to break the typecasting and would reprise the role in "Call Her Savage" (1932). In both films her natural likability works against her and it's pretty hard to suspend disbelief and buy into these scenes.
"The Big Timer" is not "Rocky" or "Raging Bull". The boxing scenes, when not stock footage, are on the authenticity level of a "Three Stooges" short. But Cummings is good enough to make you want to seek out more of her films.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
When the film begins, Pop Baldwin is a successful boxing manager.
However, when he is unexpectedly killed, his daughter (Constance
Cummings) thinks she can continue running the business. However, only
one of Pop's boxers will agree to keep her as a manager--Cooky
Bradford. This isn't such a big sacrifice on Bradford's part, as he's
never fought professionally and worked for Pop as a sparing
partner--his real job was working as a fry cook.
Like you'd see only in the movies, Cooky ends up winning his first fight--though frankly, Ben Lyon looks less athletic than Jerry Lewis and imagining him beating up anyone--even Cummings--a bit of a stretch. In fact, when you see him fight, he punches and swings CONSTANTLY--a style which looked pretty silly and would result in the boxer having a heart attack in the first or second round!! I really think they sped up the film to create this effect.
In a bit of s surprising twist, Cooky cannot find a fight after this first win. This is made worse by the fact that in the interim, he married his manager--and they are really, really struggling. They only make it out of the poorhouse when a chance meeting between Cooky's wife/manager and a socialite (Thelma Todd) results in him getting some matches for charity shows. His performances are so good, that he's spotted by the 'big boys' and soon shoots up the professional ranks. Apparently, in addition to the usual weight classes, there must be one for dorky spastic guys, as Lyons is a success!
Not at all surprising is what happens next. Todd turns out to be a home-wrecker and Lyon is a jerk-face pig who runs around with her--leaving his sweet life at home. The reason this isn't surprising is that this is a standard fight film cliché and because Todd DID play the role of bad-girl when she wasn't playing in comedies. This role was hers in many films--including the great Marx Brothers film "Horse Feathers". And, you know that by the end of the film Lyon will not only get his comeuppance but will come back to his long-suffering wife--who takes him back because she's just plain stupid!
The overall effect is watchable but also immanently forgettable. Nothing about this film is exciting or special--making it just another B-movie about boxing.
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