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Although the real Diamond Jim Brady died in 1917, almost 20 years before this film was made, Edward Arnold, who played him, actually met Brady twice when Arnold was a young actor just starting out in the theater - once when Brady came to pick up an actress who was in the same play as Arnold, and another time when Arnold was in Ethel Barrymore's acting company and Brady came backstage to pay his respects to her. See more »
James Buchanan Brady made a fortune in the development of American Railroads - the cutting edge of 19th Century technology (as the internet is today). Brady, unlike Vanderbilt, Gould, Fisk, Drew, Harriman, and Hill, did not build up a vast system of railroad lines like the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Grand Central Railroad, or the Baltimore and Ohio System. Instead he sold the Railroads equiptment they needed, in particular the rolling stock (i.e. the railways car). But he was a man who enjoyed life. He weighed over three hundred pounds by his eating the largest meals imaginable (a typical meal for Brady would have five main courses, and end with a box of candy - oddly enough he never drank: his favorite drink was orange juice). He romanced the leading entertainer of the day, Ms Lillian Russell. An advanced psychological thinker, Brady wore different sets of expensive jewelry with his different suits - to advertise his success, and impress railway executives to use him to get the materials that they needed.
He never was married (Ms Russell loved him dearly, but did not want to marry him). He died in 1917 of urinary problems due to his diet. His fortune was used to fund an important foundation at Johns Hopkins for the study of urology.
The script for this 1935 film was by Preston Sturgis, and was one of his best films (sans his own directed ones). Arnold does very well in it, playing the good natured, clever Brady as a sharp but decent person (which he was), who despite his great financial and social success never achieved his happiness. He dies when he sees that there is no point in pursuing the stringent diet that would prolong his lonely life, so after burning I.O.U.s from his friend, he insists he have the "normal" meal he enjoys. Arnold is last seen heading for the meal that will help kill him. He will eat himself to death. A really bizaare film conclusion - but with Sturgis's script and Arnold's acting it is successfully pulled off.
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