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THE CROWD ROARS is a sensational boxing drama with a terrific cast at their best. Robert Taylor stars as Tommy McCoy, raised in poverty thanks to his drunken failed vaudevillian of a father, Frank Morgan. Tommy is both a choir boy and a scrapper as a child and starts to earn a little coin singing at public events like a boxing match. When he sings at an event which has kids his own age boxing, his father bets the champion's father Tommy can beat him. He does so quite impressively and becomes a little brother figure to the adult champion William Gargan, a local guy. Gargan trains Tommy who as the years go by continues to climb the ladder while Gargan has peaked and at one point is no longer active. Ultimately, Gargan returns to the ring desperate for money and has to fight his own protégé.
Tommy's skills in the ring attract the attention of gambling king Edward Arnold, to whom Tommy's father owes $600. Ultimately the shady Arnold becomes Tommy's manager and Tommy accidentally stumbles upon Arnold's secret life, with a débutante daughter (Maureen O'Sullivan) and society circles thinking Arnold is a Wall Street executive, including daughter Maureen.
This movie is terrific! There's some really good laughs in it, quite a bit of poignancy, and action non-stop. Robert Taylor is perfectly cast as a fairly gentle soul who is in the boxing racket strictly for the money and the escape from poverty. Taylor may be the most gorgeous man in pictures in his era but he's extremely believable as a boxer, with some of the best punches thrown in the ring that you will see from a bona fide movie star. Did I mention he was gorgeous? Well I had to do it again because this film revels in his masculine handsomeness, with his superb physical shape shown frequently clad only in boxing shorts and a stunning mop of thick black hair in a style remarkably contemporary. Taylor's performance is tops too, always one of the screen's greatest "honorable" guys, this is one of his very best roles and he is wonderful in it.
Excellent support comes from Edward Arnold and Frank Morgan (the latter as a character so exasperating though it takes a long time for the audience to like him). Maureen O'Sullivan is lovely in the slender role of the girl Taylor loves. The movie is also notable for no less than four against-type casting bits that work extremely well. Nat Pendleton is best known for his lovable big goon parts in scores of MGM films from the era, here he's a scary mobster Arnold attempts to double-cross. Lionel Stander, on the other hand, often played mean characters but here he's Taylor's great pal of an assistant although as sardonic as ever. Isabel Jewell, so often cast as bimbos, is effective in a small part as a grieving wife while the very young Jane Wyman scores as a dizzy southern débutante who is Maureen's best pal and has quite a crush on Taylor herself.
THE CROWD ROARS curiously has little reputation among film buffs, that's a shame because it's one of the very best films made in 1938 and has everything a classic movie lover could want, a perfect MGM picture.
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