Golden Boy (1939)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sports Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 5, 1939 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Golden Boy is mostly remembered today for being William Holden's entry into Hollywood stardom, but at the time of its release it was an anxiously awaited cinematic version of an acclaimed and important drama by Broadway's hot playwright, Clifford Odets. Holden's performance has held up considerably better than the source material, which is filled with dated jargon, oversimplified situations, cliches (including one -- the prizefighter with the soul of an artist -- that it helped popularize) and pasteboard plotting. Fortunately, the basic theme -- what is a person willing to sacrifice to achieve success? -- doesn't grow old, which helps the film enormously. Holden doesn't quite have the acting chops at this stage in his career that the role requires, but he's strong enough and close enough to the right track to make the viewer overlook the occasional awkwardness. Barbara Stanwyck is on the money as the good/bad girl, and the chemistry between the two stars is dynamite. The supporting cast is also good, with the exception of Lee J. Cobb's father, which is played exactly as the stereotype that it is. Otherwise, Rouben Mamoulian handles the cast very well and keeps the pace up. There are relatively few of his trademark visual flourishes, except for the boxing sequences that seethe with a life and vitality that threaten to jump off the screen. Dated it may be, but Golden Boy still packs enough of a punch to make it worthwhile.