Cinderella Man – (d) a Primary Source

The following is a link to view the Cinderella Man theatrical preview: Trailor [1]

Based on this preview, the filmmakers wanted to give an in-depth look at one person’s struggles during the Great Depression. However, the Depression is only subtly mentioned, so it seems like there is an even broader theme, and that is one of not losing hope and taking advantage of the opportunities available. According to a National Public Radio interview with Ron Howard, boxing was not something that defined Braddock, but simply something he could do well [2]. With this notion in mind, Cinderella Man was not made to be categorized under the sporting genre. Boxing comes second nature in this film, used as a vehicle for James Braddock to bring him and his family out of the Great Depression. Furthermore, Braddock as a heavyweight champion was symbolic for every down-on-their-luck American in that it provided hope for them to come out of the Depression as well.

While this movie had inspirational purposes, the film did a good job addressing those people that lost faith easily during the time, specifically through the character of Mike Wilson. In reality, Braddock did not have a friend named Mike which he met working on the docks. Rather, the character of Mike was representative of those who easily questioned the programs of FDR and Herbert Hoover, stating how the intervention of the government programs prevented businesses from hiring more workers, which led to the thousands of Americans desperately searching for work on the docks [3]. Ironically, Braddock finds Mike dead in Hooverville, perhaps emphasizing the fate of those who did not believe in the government (Mike) to those that stood by it (Braddock) [4]. Mike served as a character foil to Braddock; but Braddock’s determination inspired skeptics like Mike and gave them something to believe in.

Another notion I felt the filmmakers wanted to emphasize was the role of religion during the Depression. As seen in the film and from other sources, it is evident that Braddock and his family were devout in their faith; but what of the other struggling hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey/New York? A poignant scene from the movie shows Mae going to pray hours before her husband’s title fight against Max Baer, only to come across a church filled with others wanting to do the same [5]. This event really did take place, showing how much support Braddock had during this whole ordeal [6]. Whether these people consisted of regular church-goers or avid believers in the “Bulldog of Bergen,” Cinderella Man proved that faith played a major role, whether it was in God or in James Braddock.

1. Cinderella Man, directed by Ron Howard. Universal Studios, 2005, viewed on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlbHzcH4VJY (accessed 1 November 2008).

2. Montagne, Renee. “Ron Howard on ‘Cinderella Man,'” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4678668 (accesed 1 November 2008).

3. Powell, Jim. FDR’s Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression. New York: Crown Forum, 2003.

4. Cinderella Man, DVD, directed by Ron Howard. Universal Studios, 2005.

5. Ibid., “Giving Hope.”

6. Delisa, Michael C. Cinderella Man: The James J. Braddock Story, (United Kingdom: Milo Books, 2005), 180.

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