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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Golden Boy (1939)

A young violinist (William Holden) has boxing ambitions which his immigrant father (Lee J. Cobb, only 7 years older than Holden) disapproves of. When a struggling manager (Adolphe Menjou) takes him under his wing and he appears to be on his way, he has second thoughts about the path he has chosen. Based on the greatly admired play by Clifford Odets and directed by Rouben Mamoulian. I've not read Odets play but I can only assume the film is a pale shadow of it because the screenplay (there are 4 writers credited) is pretty dire. Surely Odets' play couldn't have been as soppy as this! This was Holden's first big part and his big break but he's still only promising here, his performance awkward enough to understand why the producers wanted to replace him (Barbara Stanwyck insisted that he stay). Cobb gives one of his overly hammy performances that contributed to his reputation as a scenery chewer. But there's Stanwyck, an actress almost incapable of giving a false reading, and Joseph Calleia as the mobster intent on taking over Holden's career who puts out a genuine sense of menace. A period piece that I would imagine would be tough going for most contemporary audiences. With Sam Levene, Edward Brophy and Don Beddoe.

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