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George E. Stone
MGM had once used ad-lines which proclaimed "Garbo talks!" and "Garbo laughs!" For this movie they might have used "Robert Taylor strips!" Female fans had always swooned over the romantically handsome Taylor but men supposedly found him too much of a "pretty boy" who too often appeared in soapy costume dramas. Anxious to increase his appeal, and with Taylor's enthusiastic consent, MGM decided to toughen up their rising star's image by casting him as a prizefighter with a dark edge in a gritty (by MGM standards) boxing movie. First, the movie teases its audience by an opening twelve-and-a-half minute sequence detailing the childhood of its protagonist. (Gene Reynolds plays the young Robert Taylor). Then, ta-dah!, we see the adult protagonist, introduced with a shot of his bare, sweaty back as he works out in a boxing gym. Wait, there's more! The camera moves position and we now see Taylor's bare chest, also sweaty, complete with an inverted triangle of chest hair beginning at the collarbones and extending down to the sternum. (One imagines a make-up team carefully trimming and combing this hair to give it just the right effect.) For the next seven minutes Taylor appears bare-chested -- working out at a punching bag, retiring to a dressing room, taking a shower, appearing with a towel tied around his waist. Later in the movie he's shown soaking in a bathtub, (while reading "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"), and then there are various boxing matches full of sweaty, face-punching action. All this "beefcake," showcased in a slick, satisfying, well-cast package, apparently did the trick because Taylor soon emerged as one of MGM's brightest and most durable stars. Curiously, Taylor rarely again took off his shirt, so if you want to see his nipples showcased in all their Hollywood glory, you better watch "The Crowd Roars."
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