During the Great Depression, a common-man hero, James J. Braddock--a.k.a. the Cinderella Man--was to become one of the most surprising sports legends in history. By the early 1930s, the impoverished ex-prizefighter was seemingly as broken-down, beaten-up and out-of-luck as much of the rest of the American populace who had hit rock bottom. His career appeared to be finished, he was unable to pay the bills, the only thing that mattered to him--his family--was in danger, and he was even forced to go on Public Relief. But deep inside, Jim Braddock never relinquished his determination. Driven by love, honor and an incredible dose the ones who are do of grit, he willed an impossible dream to come true. In a last-chance bid to help his family, Braddock returned to the ring. No one thought he had a shot. However Braddock, fueled by something beyond mere competition, kept winning. Suddenly, the ordinary working man became the mythic athlete. Carrying the hopes and dreams of the disenfranchised...Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Before the title appears the following: "In all the history of the boxing game, you'll find no human interest story to compare with the life narrative of James J. Braddock." - Damon Runyon (1936) See more »
If the great depression of the 1930s is a mystery to you, then Cinderella Man can fix that. The story, about the ups and downs in the career of a boxer, is uplifting and entertaining. However, what makes this film more than that is its believable depiction of the great depression.
The sets look similar to pictures I have seen in books I read about the depression, and the costumes are correct. But this is not just a "period piece." The behavior of everyone in the cast, and every extra, shows dedication to reproducing the gestures and attitudes I have observed in people I have personally known who lived through the depression.
Take, for example, the scene at the dock where Braddock, the boxer, waits with dozens of other men for the chance to work a stevedore job for the day. "We need ten," shouts the boss. Then he points, and counts. Every eye is trying to meet his, trying to be picked. Not a gesture is out of place.
This kind of verisimilitude comes only from fanatics for accuracy. Look at drector Ron Howard and male lead Russell Crowe. Ron Howard also directed Cocoon, Willow, and -- for the Academy Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Picture -- A Beautiful Mind, which also starred Crowe. He drove the set designers, the costumers, the cast, and the extras, with telling effect. Nothing is over-acted.
Crowe trained for the film using the same, low-tech methods used in boxing in the 1930s. He also studied film footage of Braddock to master the real fighter's characteristic gestures. In the ring, said one of Crowe's trainers, he successfully duplicated Braddock's moves, his footwork, and his style.
The boxing drives the story along. It is bloody, fierce boxing. Some people may find the fight scenes objectionably violent. Crowe broke his hand in training. Real fighters played most of his opponents. Sometimes they forgot they were supposed to fake punches, leading to the spilling of real blood, which was left in the final version. Crowe also landed a few real punches by mistake.
The boxing, however, is overshadowed by life during the depression. Millions were out of work. Milk was delivered in bottles, by a milk man. People left their empty milk bottles out at night so the milk man could collect them early the next morning, and replace them with full bottles. When the dairy could no longer extend a family's credit, the empty bottles were still there in the morning with a note of apology stuck in the mouth of one of them.
During the depression, there was no unemployment insurance, no Medicaid, and no Social Security. There was the dole, but it was new, humiliating, and under funded. You cold not get enough to keep your family fed and clothed.
Braddock is shown waiting for and getting his dole, another moving scene in which everyone is stoically in character. The film also accurately depicts the huge gap that opened between the masses of the poor, and the few, fabulously wealthy.
This is a very entertaining film. However, if you are just beginning to study the great depression, it can be a a great head start.
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