If anybody needs persuading that stars and directors can make a substantial difference to a movie then I suggest they watch this movie and then immediately view Errol Flynn in Gentleman Jim under the direction of Raoul Walsh.Both are biographical movies about world heavyweight champions but the Flynn movie works so much better because of the casting and the direction of a man who specialised in rugged macho movie making rather than the all purpose blandness of the direction by Frank Tuttle in this picture The John L of the title is John L Sullivan ,the Boston Strong Man .who became world champ at the turn of the last century.The movie traces his rise and fall .In between bouts with opponents in the ring and booze out of it he falls in love with and marries a musical comedy star ,played by Linda Darnell .On losing the title he plunges ever deeper into the gutter before striving to get his life back on track.
The period atmosphere is good and the supporting performances are sound but Greg McClure is inadequate as John L .Comapre his performance to Errol Flyn in Gemtleman Jim and you will see the difference between one who looks the part(McClure)and one who inhabits it (Flynn).I have already alluded to the flaccid direction which fails to anchor the movie firmly enough .Bing Crosby produced the movie and may be responsible for its high schmaltz quotient Its okay but would have been better with a stronger lead performance
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