Jolly Cinema > 11:20


Rouben Mamoulian


Wednesday 28/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Joe  Bonaparte  (William   Holden  in his first starring role), the fiery and over-confident son of an immigrant Italian family in New York, ignores his father’s wish that he should stick to an unsuccessful career as a concert violinist and becomes a prize fighter. But when Joe falls for cynical Lorna Moon (Barbara Stanwyck), the lover of manager Tom Moody (Adolphe Menjou), he realises he needs something more than punching power. As ever in Mamoulian’s world, identity is fragmented. There’s a man torn between physical brutality and artistic sensitivity and a woman who doesn’t know whether she loves a boxer or a bohemian musician.
During a short and unhappy period at Columbia, Mamoulian was meant  to direct Mr. Smith Goes to Washington while Frank Capra  was  assigned to Golden Boy. However, in a turn of events, their projects were swapped. The problem with Golden Boy was  that the story’s messages, with their origins in a 1937 play by leftist writer Clifford Odets, were too alien to Mamoulian, who was more accustomed to building elaborate cinematic constructs on thinner and looser storylines. Mamoulian personally supervised the reworking of the material by various writers, toning down its political slogans and adding humour and irony.
As a boxing film, this is highly unusual since, except for the final face-off in Madison Square Garden (where one can see how the black-and-white cinematography of Nicholas Musuraca and Karl Freund could have influenced Raging Bull), the sporting elements are shown only in rapid montage sequences or off-frame. However, music occupies a central place in the film and gives life to it. It is music that brings the overwrought family together, establishing a sense of grace and calm in the run-down living room of the father (Lee J. Cobb). Like other Mamoulian films, this deals with an awakening that comes with a heavy price, so heavy that the music might already come too late.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog.: from the pièce of the same name (1937) by Clifford Odets. Scen.: Lewis Meltzer, Daniel Taradash, Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman. F.: Nicholas Musuraca, Karl Freund. M.: Otto Meyer. Scgf.: Lionel Banks. Mus.: Victor Young. Int.: Barbara Stanwyck (Lorna Moon), Adolphe Menjou (Tom Moody), William Holden (Joe Bonaparte), Lee J. Cobb (signor Bonaparte), Joseph Calleia (Eddie Fuseli), Sam Levene (Siggie), Edward Brophy (Roxy Lewis), Beatrice Blinn (Anna). Prod.: William Perlberg per Columbia Pictures Corporation. 35mm. D.: 99’. Bn.