|Get ready to swoon, ClassicBecky!|
It's loosely based on the true life story of "Gentleman"James J. Corbett, the boxer who redefined the sport forever. Before him, boxing was more rough and tumble bare knuckle brawls than the kind you might see on T.V. today. (Even though I probably will not be watching that for I do not like sports at all, but I digress.) His style followed the more civilized way of the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, which emphasized more on the fairness of the sport rather than on the illegal brawls. (Literally, boxing was banned in many states until the early 20th Century. Yeah!) Jim also used polished footwork and technique that of course bewildered most of his rough opponents. This and of course his gentleman like personality helped him defeat John L. Sullivan in 1892.
|The Real James Corbett Who Looks Nothing Like Errol|
The shooting for this movie was also harsh for the main actor. According to TCM's article on the film by Jay S. Steinberg, "The famously hard-partying Flynn had been wracked with assorted health problems in 1942, and it all culminated with his collapse during the filming of one of Gentleman Jim's fight sequences. While the studio had publicly chalked it up to fatigue, the doctors diagnosed a mild heart attack. Alexis Smith recounted in the biography, The Two Lives of Errol Flynn by Michael Freedland, how she took the star aside and told him, "'It's so silly, working all day and then playing all night and dissipating yourself. Don't you want to live a long life?' Errol was his usually apparently unconcerned self: 'I'm only interested in this half,' he told her. 'I don't care for the future.'"
Despite those major setbacks (and the fact that I don't find any of the comic scenes funny at all), it's a really decent movie with more strengths than flaws. It's riddled with terrific work from most of the supporting actors, including an awesome performance from Ward Bond who plays a bigger-than-life performance of John L. Sullivan. The directing by Raoul Walsh is just amazing especially with those magnificent boxing scenes that are still stuck in my head to my annoyance. The plot's okay with some really good moments (the family scenes) with some really boring scenes (any involving Alexis Smith except for the end). I'm sorry but I didn't find her captivating as Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. She's just really an uninteresting character with nothing to offer than love/mock Errol. Boo you, Mr. Corbett. I hope you lose that Oscar for Best Actor That Was Beaten Up By Errol. Oh wait. I love you for no reason at all. At least, she's a great actor compared with another one named Jack Carson. Grr. I'm sorry but I just find his character to be really annoying and to have no purpose at all, except to drink heavily and to be funny. Rarely a good sign in movies.
Thankfully, this movie has Errol Flynn to save it from Jack. The reason why this movie works is because of him. Case in point: the ending. As John L. Sullivan is giving him his belt as a sign of acceptance, notice Errol's underplaying. The reason why he's doing it is because he as an actor wants the audience to notice at what his character is showing rather than what is visible from the dialogue. In the scene, the audience can tell that Jim is respecting the man he had just beaten, and to show it without saying much is a grand accomplishment for anyone. Even though I'm only recommending this movie for those kids who would love Errol Flynn or boxing stories for the plot's really boring, this is one of Errol's greatest roles in film.