Cinderella Man – (c) a Secondary Source

“The worst point [of the Depression] in the United States was 1933 when more than 15 million Americans – one-quarter of the labor force – were unemployed” [1]. This statistic was depicted in the movie through one scene where Jim Braddock briskly walks through the cold and over a newspaper headline with that startling number. The movie emphasizes the struggle men had in finding work on the docks, where only five or six men would be picked for the whole day. It was rare for Braddock to get more than two days of work a week [2]. The inability to support his family led Braddock to become one of 600,000 people in New Jersey to fall in line and apply for government relief [2].

Cinderella Man did an excellent job capturing Braddock’s character during this ordeal as well. His Irish-Catholic background played a major role in the values he held onto, specifically the one of family. When Mae had to send the children away to other family members because they could not support them, Braddock expressed his anger and disappointment to her for not consulting him first [3]. For cinematic purposes, this was a scene of a man who seemed to lose control not only of his family, but of his masculinity. In actuality, Mae expressed in a biography that Braddock had “broken down” emotionally [4]. Although a little soft for the boxer that was portrayed in the film, the opposing expressions of feeling derives from Braddock’s fatherly intuition.

And what of the character of Mae, and how accurately was she seen by Ron Howard? Her loyalty to her husband was there, but she seemed to also fit the stereotype of every boxer’s wife portrayed in movies. Take Rocky, for instance. The wife, Adrian (played by Talia Shire) could not bear to watch a single punch thrown at Rocky [4]. Mae was no exception. In the film she was more reluctant to listen to the fight on the radio, but she has been described as very pro-active and supportive of her husband’s fights. When listening to the Baer fight, she was described as “gripping the arms of her chair in front of the radio…silently listening with her hands clenched in her lap” [5].

The fights were accurately depicted in chronological order as well. On the official website of James Braddock, a list of his fight record is displayed, including the dates, locations, and outcomes of every fight of his professional career [6].

The biggest inaccuracy was the portrayal of Max Baer. In the film, he is depicted as a ruthless fighter in the ring and exhibiting inappropriate behavior outside the ring. It is true that he fought with brute strength and powerful punches, but his fighting style killed only one person and not two as Cinderella Man claims [7]. Personality-wise, he was not the polygamous type. He did have a way with words, though, as seen in this description of Braddock after winning the title from him: “I’m glad and really happy to see Jimmy happy…After all, he’s got a family…I might have a family around the country too, but I don’t know it!” Considering the time period, this was seen as “saucy outburst[s]” and “loose talk” [8]. The movie did make a genuine effort to reenact the Braddock-Baer fight. Below is original footage of the last round of the match, including the announcer’s proclamation of the winner, in the same way the movie portrays it (note:  Baer is the taller of the two, wearing the shorts with the Star of David emblem).

Braddock vs. Baer – Round 15 [9]

There were other minor inaccuracies as well. For example, the beginning of the film starts in 1928 where it shows all three Braddock children present, when we know that their first child was not born until 1930 [10]. There is also a powerful scene where Braddock desperately asks the boxing commission for money as a last resort to pay his debts and get his family back [11]. In reality, what happened was that Braddock went to Gould first (who was tapped out himself), and out of pure loyalty to Braddock, went to the commission for him and asked for money [12]. These inaccuracies, though, are overshadowed by Ron Howard’s achievement of remaining faithful to the main themes behind Braddock’s story.

1. Rasmussen, Hannah. “A Student’s Guide to the Great Depression,” http://economics.about.com/od/recessions/a/greatdepression.htm (accessed 30 October 2008).

2. Delisa, Michael C. Cinderella Man: The James J. Braddock Story. (United Kingdom: Milo Books, 2005), 152.

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

4. Rocky, DVD, directed by John G. Avildsen. Chartoff-Winkler Productions, 1976.

5. Delisa, Michael C. Cinderella Man: The James J. Braddock Story. (United Kingdom: Milo Books, 2005), 184.

6. “James J. Braddock Fight Record,” James J. Braddock: the official website. http://www.jamesjbraddock.com/record/ (accessed 15 october 2008).

7. Schapp, Jeremy. Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005), 59.

8. Delisa, Michael C. Cinderella Man: The James J. Braddock Story. (United Kingdom: Milo Books, 2005), 186.

9. “Jim Braddock Vs. Max Baer Last Round,” YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojXUJ451f9Q (accessed 20 October 2008).

10. Schapp, Jeremy. Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005), 115.

11. “Emergency Relief,” Cinderella Man, DVD. Directed by Ron Howard. Universal Studios, 2005.

12. Delisa, Michael C. Cinderella Man: The James J. Braddock Story. (United Kingdom: Milo Books, 2005), 141.

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