GENTLEMAN JIM

(1942)
With Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Ward Bond, Alan Hale, John Loder, William Frawley

Directed by Raoul Walsh
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

     GENTLEMAN JIM runs on sheer personality.  There is never any dramatic tension, never a moment where you think boxer James J, Corbett, as played by Errol Flynn, won't get his way with his opponent, his backers, the world or his girl.  It is clear from frame one where this film is going, and throughout, Corbett rarely if ever suffers any setbacks on his road to becoming the world champion boxer.  Yet Errol Flynn is so great in the role, and the film is so filled with fun scenes, sharp dialog and engaging performances, it is still entertaining as hell.

    What was it about Warners that they could develop smug, arrogant wiseguys, put them on the screen and convince the entire world to love them?  People may not immediately think of Errol Flynn when they think of Warners Wiseguys, but, like Cagney, Robinson and Bogart once he became a star, Flynn projected an unshakable confidence, a knowledge that when he was on screen, there was nobody else capable of stealing attention from him.  You'll notice how rare it is for the major male stars at Warners to co-star with any of their contemporaries.  Bogart in his pre-star days, supported Cagney, Robinson and even Flynn once, but once he made it big, his days of supporting other stars were over (although Eddie G. did manage to steal KEY LARGO from Bogart in a supporting role).  The personas of the major Warner male stars were so strong, the teaming of any two of them might have been too much.  Who do you root for?

   Boxer James J. Corbett, who defeated champion John L. Sullivan in 1892, is known as the first modern boxer, one to use strategy and footwork against his opponents rather than simply trying to pummel them.  Like many a Hollywood bio-pic, this filmic version of Gentleman Jim's life captures little of his story.  It makes nothing of a 61-round fight in which he established his reputation, and makes little of the fancy footwork he brought to the sport.  So GENTLEMEN JIM is not the film to watch if you are writing an article about Gentleman Jim.  If you writing an article about how dynamite Errol Flynn was on screen, however, then this (along with many others) is the movie for you.  4 - JB
    

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