35 user 13 critic

Golden Boy (1939)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 5 September 1939 (USA)
Despite his musical talent, Joe Bonaparte wants to be a boxer.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Roxy Lewis (as Edward S. Brophy)
William H. Strauss ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Newspaperman (scenes deleted)


Joe Bonaparte's father wants him to pursue his musical talent; but Joe wants to be a boxer. Persuading near-bankrupt manager Tom Moody to give him a chance, Joe quickly rises in his new profession. When he has second thoughts Moody's girl Lorna uses feminine wiles to keep him boxing. But when tough gangster Eddie Fuseli wants to "buy a piece" of Joe, Lorna herself begins to have second thoughts...for that and other reasons. Is it too late? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The romantic stage success that captured a nation... is now a great motion picture See more »


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

5 September 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

L'esclave aux mains d'or  »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Columbia could not use Richard Carlson, its first choice for the title role, because Carlson was appearing in a Broadway play, "Stars in Your Eyes". The studio then cast William Holden in the part. See more »


When Chocolate Drop is knocked out, he falls face down with his arms straight out in a cross position. A moment later, both of his arms are bent as he is counted out. See more »


Joe Bonaparte: [Last Lines] Poppa, I've come home.
See more »


Referenced in Boxing at the Movies: Kings of the Ring (2013) See more »


We're in the Money Now
Sung a cappella by Adolphe Menjou to the tune of the traditional
nursery rhyme "The Farmer in the Dell"
See more »

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User Reviews

Heavy-handed but charismatic
12 January 2006 | by See all my reviews

"They are good for only one thing now - slugging!", Joe Bonaparte says with self-disgust, looking down at his broken hands after a middleweight prize fight at Madison Sqare Garden.

Joe had the option to be a great classical violinist, but the girl he was in love with wet his appetite for the quick buck and the American dream. "It's a big city, little people don't stand a chance", says Lorna, egging him up, playing up to his male ego. "Money's the answer". And the poor Italian immigrant kid grabs the bait, hangs up the violin and sells out.

'Golden Boy' is a piece of vintage Americana that is a bit hard to take today. Clifford Odets' controversial play was openly socialist and crammed with sudden, badly integrated political insights about "competetive civilization" and "a man hits his wife, and it's the first step towards fascism". It is all about the flip side of the American dream and gets a bit heavy-handed at times.

Lee J. Cobb is almost unbearably schmaltzy as the all-embracing, tearful Italian Papa, whereas Adolphe Menjou balances his performance carefully as the basically benign boxing promoter whose mistress is Lorna, Joe's chosen one, "just a dame from Newark" as she presents herself.

Barbara Stanwyck is more or less going through the motions as the hard-as-nails Lorna, and the real star of the picture is 21 year old newcomer William Holden, impossibly handsome and hunky, starting out with perfectly tousled curly hair. His performance is as yet immature and unfinished, but he has his moments and makes up for a shaky ride with loads of charisma, and he more than holds his own in the climactic title fight at the Garden, playing against the Chocolate Drop, "the pride of Harlem" in this race-segregated boxing haven.

'Golden Boy' is not, though, one of director Mamoulian's happier efforts. It is far too maudlin to look like anything Mamoulian ever did, it is not like him to lay it on this thick. It has none of the quirks or edge from 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' among others, but it is lushly, richly orchestrated in the vein of 19th century European music.

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