Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gentleman Jim (1942) RENT for ages 10 and up

Get ready to swoon, ClassicBecky! 
       Before he got himself involved with scandals, Errol Flynn was one of the most popular leading men in Hollywood. With box-office/critically acclaimed hits such as The Adventures Of Robin Hood and Captain Blood, he showed that he was more than an athletic swashbuckler and romantic lover. The real reason why Errol Flynn is still famous is that he had charisma. He was one of the first actors who showed that this trait can help an actor evaluate his acting skills even more than action or romance can. No movie can better show this than the 70-year-old drama, Gentleman Jim.
          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
    Like most Hollywood biopics of the time, it is more of a fanciful imagining of the life rather than what truly happened. A main part of the film involves with a romantic love interest,played by Alexis Smith, who doesn't like our hero at all. In fact, she wants him to be knocked out in all of his big fights. But of course, he manages to get the girl by the end.Major shock. Another subplot involves James' family who are very combative yet loving at the same time thanks to his parents. The movie also shows that James was an outgoing person and he had a great sense of natural charisma. From what I can get from this movie, it suggests he would have a boxing career for his main income. Yeah, those scenarios didn't happen in real life. By 1892, he was already married, and his parents apparently took their own lives in a murder-suicide. Ouch. He supposedly was a mostly reserved man, and since boxing was mostly illegal, he became an actor to support himself. So in other words, it's mostly Hollywood gloss covering good potential for an emotional study of a compelling character.Why Hollywood?!?
          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.

No comments:

Post a Comment