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John H. Auer
After a bunch of early films where Robert Taylor was playing both modern and costumed romantic leads, taking full advantage of his extraordinary good looks, Robert Taylor asked for some more rugged type roles. Louis B. Mayer's answer to his most cooperative of stars was to cast him first in A Yank At Oxford and then in The Crowd Roars.
In the first film, Taylor rowed crew for dear old Oxford where he was a matriculating student. But in The Crowd Roars he's even more rugged as a boxer. The role was chosen for him so he could have lots of opportunities to go bare-chested and show that in fact he's got hair on his chest. Taylor himself made that comment and back in those more innocent days it was to show he was not a powderpuff as if having follicles on your anterior was proof of that.
Overlooked in this hairy situation was the fact that Robert Taylor got a very fine role for himself as a boxer determined to make a quick buck and get out as fast as possible before becoming a punch drunk rummy. He's had poor and he's had rich and rich was better. Back when he was poor he was living hand to mouth with a near do well father, Frank Morgan, and a gentle mother who took in washing because her husband couldn't hold down a job. Taylor's mother in The Crowd Roars was played by Emma Dunn in a brief, but very telling role.
Anyway when young Gene Reynolds grows up to be Robert Taylor he's now supporting dear old dad who's still drinking and gambling. Those two habits are nearly the undoing of his son when he falls into the hands of rival gamblers Edward Arnold and Nat Pendleton. The usual bumbling oaf that Frank Morgan portrays on screen is played far more serious here. It's one of Frank Morgan's best screen roles.
Arnold has his secrets also, his daughter Maureen O'Sullivan and her ditzy friend Jane Wyman think Arnold is a stockbroker, as if that wasn't also gambling. Taylor in courting Sullivan does not disillusion her.
Look for another good performance by William Gargan as a former Light Heavyweight champion who takes an interest in young Gene Reynolds and Lionel Stander as Gargan's trainer and later Taylor's trainer.
The Crowd Roars is a fine film from MGM that went a long way in expanding Robert Taylor's range as thespian.
And we proved he had hair on his chest.
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