“I'll make him fight.”
“How? Oh, leave it to me Tom.
“How? Oh, leave it to me Tom.
I'm a dame from Newark, and I know a dozen ways.”
Golden Boy was one of the five hundred films made in the famous year 1939. It is hard to think any other films besides the dominating Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were released. If Golden Boy had been made in any other year I am sure it would be more known. It is a great drama of a young boy torn between wanting fame and money and wanting to please his father that he loves very much.
Boxing promoter Tom Moody (Adolphe Menjou) cannot catch a break. None of his boxers are making him any money. Tom desperately needs money so his can divorce his wife and marry his mistress Lorna Moon (Barbara Stanwyck). He finds out his best boxer broke his hand in a fight. The boxer responsible for the broken hand of the other comes into Tom’s office. The boxer is just a twenty-year old kid named Joe Bonaparte (William Holden). Joe is a tough guy or at least he thinks he is. Tom eventually winds up signing Joe.
When he is not boxing Joe plays the violin. He has been exceptionally talented playing the violin since he was small. His father has saved up fifteen hundred dollars to buy him a new violin in the hopes he will study music at school. Before his father gives Joe the violin for his twenty-first birthday Joe comes home and tells his father about how he is getting paid to fight. He says he can get paid good money for fighting he could never make enough playing music.
With Tom and Lorna’s help Joe becomes a small success. Two months after his birthday Joe comes home to find the violin his father bought him in a drawer. He takes out the instrument and plays it. His love of music and the violin is renewed. With his renewed love Joe is afraid it hurt his hands when he fights and starts losing his matches. He even starts missing out on training at the gym. Tom and Lorna go to Joe’s place to see what is going on. Joe tells Tom he is not sure he wants to fight anymore. Tom knows Joe likes Lorna and will listen to her so he gets her to try to make Joe fight again. Lorna takes Joe to a concert in the park and they just walk and talk. She tells him she believes he is a good fighter and that he can be a success and make money fighting. Joe listens to Lorna and begins to fight again. His father is not happy but Joe does not care since he will be making money and be known.
Joe becomes a huge boxing success. Tom sends him across the country where he takes down his opponents with ease. When Joe and Tom arrive back in town a gangster named Fuseli wants to buy a piece of Joe. Tom refuses because Fuseli is no good. Fuseli promises Joe a lot more fame and success which is very tempting for the young man.
Lorna and Tom go back to Joe’s place with him. The father has Joe play the violin for the first time in eight months. He has been out of practice and messes up which frustrates him. Lorna tells Joe that she loves his family and that she is wrong about him being a fighter he should be with his family and playing music. Joe promises her he will go back to his family and his music once he has become a champ.
Fuseli comes around again at just the right time. Joe is getting upset that Tom cannot book him into big places in New York City like Madison Square Garden. Tom says he has tried but it is booked. Fuseli makes one phone call and Joe has a fight at the Garden. Joe leaves Tom and signs up with Fuseli. Lorna had told Joe she loves him and would tell Tom she would leave him but after what Joe did she decides to stay with Tom.
Just before the fight at the Garden Tom lets Joe know Fuseli has bought out his shares in him. Joe’s father also comes to see him. Joe feels everyone is against him now. He winds up winning the fight in two rounds. Unfortunately his wrist is broken and tragically the other boxer has died. After the death and the broken wrist Joe tells Fuseli he does not want to fight anymore.
Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, and Adolphe Menjou were perfection on their roles. I really liked Stanwyck in this role because she did not over act either her toughness or niceness. The famous story for this film is that the director and producers wanted to fire William Holden because they thought he was not good enough. Stanwyck believed in him and pushed for him to stay. This film proved to be Holden’s breakthrough and went on to be one of the best actors of the Golden Age. Holden was twenty-one years old when he made this and even then he had a tremendous amount of talent. He is adorable. th Adolphe Menjou can also be a bit too much at times, he can come off like a ham. I liked him with Stanwyck, their pairing was a bit odd but it worked.
Golden Boy is a film absolutely worth watching. It is very sincere from the theme of the story to the acting.