Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933)

Genres - Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama, Inspirational Drama, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Jun 3, 1933 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bruce Eder

The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933) isn't nearly as well-known as its remake, They Made Me A Criminal (1939), which starred John Garfield, Gloria Dickson, the Dead End Kids, and Claude Rains, and had the distinction of being directed by Busby Berkeley. The presence of that cast, coupled with its "public domain" status, has resulted in the remake supplanting this movie. But there are some considerable virtues to be found in Archie Mayo's 1933 movie -- for starters, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. is surprisingly good in the role of Dolan, a venal, self-centered prize-fighter who discovers some important sides of life and living when he loses everything he has. He's not as convincing as a boxer, but he pulls it off. And Guy Kibbee as his pursuer successfully looks and acts the part of a man who discovers he might not be as desperate for redemption as he thought. And the dialogue is reasonably snappy, especially in the sequences leading up to the climactic boxing match. And then there's the supporting cast, which includes, as children, the uncredited presence of Mickey Rooney, Anne Shirley, and Allen "Farina" Hoskins, the latter a charter member of the Little Rascals/Our Gang troupe. And waiting along with Fairbanks' Dolan for a crack at the "champ" is a young John Wayne as Smith, the nervous boxer (who keeps saying "I'll knock his ears off"). Aline MacMahon brings a lot of energy to her matronly role, and Loretta Young is not only good to look at but was a better actress here than she was later in her career, when she'd become much more self-conscious. Aspects of the plot may seem sappy by today's standards (and may have in 1933, which the dislogue at the end in this version addresses obliquely), but the cast pulls it off.