Golden Boy - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Golden Boy Reviews

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½ October 17, 2014
Great movie. William Holden stars in this film as a violinist turned boxer. He must choose in the end whether to follow his passion for music or to help make a wealthier life as a boxer, but being a boxer isn't as easy as it seems to be. With nice performance from Barbara stanwyck, lee j Cobb, adolphe menjou and Joseph calleia, and also, with a superb music accompanying the scenes, this, in my opinion, was a fantastic movie to watch.
March 22, 2013
A young man is tempted to give up his talent for the violin to start a career in prizefighting, encouraged by an unscrupulous manager and his seductive girlfriend. The screenplay is far from perfect and goes downhill from start to end. Holden and Stanwick give good performances.
December 8, 2012
This is one of those rare times where I find myself rooting against the main character of the movie.
½ June 28, 2011
Better Known For Its Backstory Than Its Quality

Here is what everyone knows about this movie. The studio did not wish to cast William Holden, a complete unknown, in the film. Oh, they must have known that this was not going to be the top-grossing film of the year. After all, this is a movie from 1939, and the fight for top-grossing film of 1939 was going to be a tough one. However, they would quite like people to go see it, if they weren't off seeing [i]Gone With the Wind[/i] or [i]The Wizard of Oz[/i] or [i]Stagecoach[/i] instead. So they wanted to cast a Name, someone people had heard of. But Barbara Stanwyck, still a box office draw herself, campaigned for Holden and insisted that he get--and keep--the role. And we know this because, when they were presenting at the Oscars together in 1978, he told the story and essentially thanked Barbara Stanwyck for his career. This is considered one of the greatest Oscar moments in history, and it's proof of the idea that Old Hollywood needs to keep a place in the Oscar broadcast, because there's more interesting stuff that way.

William Holden plays Joe Bonaparte, who decides, for reasons I didn't quite catch, that he should become a boxer. I think this is to earn money so that he can have a music career, but that doesn't make sense, so maybe there's something else involved. Anyway, he's not sure this is what he wants out of life, because violinist, but Slightly Shady Promoter Tom Moody (Adolphe Menjou) gets Lorna Moon (Stanwyck) to use her Feminine Wiles to convince Joe that boxing is a much better choice than the violin. She'll love him when he's a championship boxer, apparently, and the fact that she and Moody would be married if his wife would give him a divorce should be ignored. Then, he ends up getting mixed up with Really Shady Promoter and Probably Mobster Eddie Fuseli (Joseph Calleia). All of this to the great disappointment of Joe's father, Lee J. Cobb.

And that's all there is to it, really. Basically, the whole movie is a waiting game. You know there's going to be dramatic damage to Joe's hands, and it's just a matter of when it's going to happen. Honestly, I've been kind of avoiding boxing movies, because I want to still be able to care when I get to the two actually good boxing movies coming up under "R," and I can't guarantee that will happen if I waste time on lesser ones. (It's on the list of reasons I didn't watch [i]The Fighter[/i].) Part of the problem is that there aren't a whole lot of plot possibilities to boxing movies, and everyone knows it. Not, at any rate, if boxing is to form a substantial part of the plot. And okay, yeah. The movie here is really more about Joe, Lorna, and Joe's violin. However, there is still the whole thing with the fact that he's getting hooked up with a mobster, though exactly what moblike activities Fuseli is in on are left pretty vague, though there are implications that Joe runs the risk of getting shot if he doesn't do what Fuseli wants him to.

I have to admit, I will watch just about anything with Barbara Stanwyck in it. She was nominated four times and received an honorary Oscar, but she never actually won. The thing is, I don't think many people my age know she even existed, and that's a real shame. She was not exactly conventionally beautiful, though she did have a sensuality I admire. She was possessed with a confidence that not many could match. It isn't just that she was a woman with full control of her own body and her own sexuality; a lot of women today have that. Barbara Stanwyck managed to project a certainty about who she was and where she was going, and that's hard to match. She did a great job in Pre-Code films, wherein she was able to make her sexuality work for her. Of course, there's also [i]Double Indemnity[/i], which pushed the Code about as far as she could. I'll admit I'm hard-pressed to say that she should have beaten Ingrid Bergman that year ([i]Gaslight[/i]), but it's the Barbara Stanwyck movie I'd encourage people to seek out.

I think that, when people my age talk about how they don't watch old movies, this is the kind of old movie they're thinking about. Leaving aside that there are some great actors here, there are also some serious failings, and it isn't just the melodrama. There's the problem of Joe's wacky drunken brother-in-law, Siggie (Sam Levene). Who, it is implied, has driven drunk and in fact probably got into an accident while driving his cab drunk. Maybe funny in 1939, but not very funny now. And of course Lee J. Cobb, who was too young for the part but did a fine job, did a fine job playing an ethnic stereotype. The black boxer from the Madison Square Garden fight is called Chocolate Drop (James "Cannonball" Green) and is said to be the Pride of Harlem. His father (Clinton Rosemond) speaks in fairly thick dialect, though of course he's also one of the wisest characters in the film. There are some highlights to this movie, but of course, it's not the movie of 1939 you should start your Old Movie watching with.
May 31, 2011
Excellent work from Stanwyck and Holden.
June 8, 2010
Un Mamoulian mineur avec un Lee J. Cobb poussif.
May 13, 2010
I know I've seen this. I know I've seen another movie with poor violinists and corrupting female influences, though. With Joan Crawford? And John Garfield? Except that one's more noir and this one is more melodrama. I probably preferred the other one. Humoresque? I think that's the name of it.
½ April 8, 2010
Fine classic, probably best known for William Holden?s glowing praise of Barbara Stanwyck?s at the 1978 Academy Awards show for her kindness and generosity during it?s filming. Stanwyck, as always is a joy to watch. William Holden is quite good in his first major role. Although it does lack originality, the professionalism of the production and acting make it well worth watching.
½ April 8, 2010
71/100. Fine classic, probably best known for William Holden's glowing praise of Barbara Stanwyck's at the 1978 Academy Awards show for her kindness and generosity during it's filming. Stanwyck, as always is a joy to watch. William Holden is quite good in his first major role. Although it does lack originality, the professionalism of the production and acting make it well worth watching.
October 9, 2009
A violinist turned boxer finds out the hard way what he truly loves. Made in 1939 considered the 'Greatest Year' for Hollywood, this movie is quite entertaining. Holden's over the top acting is matched by some great character acting with the likes of Adolphe Menjou, Lee J Cobb, Joseph Calleia, Sam Levene and Edward Brophy (who could pass for Curly's brother in the 3 Stooges).
Super Reviewer
July 17, 2009
it's pretty corny but it was great fun seeing 21-year old william holden in his first important role as violinist turned boxer joe bonaparte. i swear i didn't recognize him for at least 10 mins. and of course he falls for barbara stanwyck :)
½ January 1, 2009
Get a look at Holden! Other than that, Boxing movies really don't pull me in.
August 6, 2008
It was nice to see William Holden in his first starring role along side the great Barbara Stanwyck. The story has been regurgitated countless times, thus making it a classic. The performances were good and the chemistry between Stanwyck and Holden was great.
July 12, 2008
I'll basically watch Barbara Stanwyck in anything, and she carries this film. She's one of my favorite actresses, and I think some of her natural intelligence and toughness comes out in most of her roles. Here she plays a cynical, world weary women who falls for a naive boxer. The script isn't fairly good, but the ending wraps everthing up in an overly tidy manner. But eveyone on the planet should see The Lady Eve and Double Indemnity.
½ May 22, 2008
I'm a sucker for boxing movies, especially Depression era ones. Golden Boy may not be among the best, but it's still a strong film. Holden gives a god performance VERY early in his career, and Stanwyck's performance is very gentle and lowkey.
May 15, 2008
Being a fan of William Holden, I was curious to see him in his first starring role, and I must say that I wasn't entirely disappointed.

Holden plays a young violinist named Joe Bonaparte who is torn between becoming a great musician or a prizefighter. His father pushes for his musical integrity, but the temptation of boxing fame and the desire to win the heart of Barbara Stanwyck cause him to risk his career as a violinist and take up boxing.The plot is filled with cheese and creaks with age, but it certainly has its moments of genuine drama and entertainment.

When Holden first walks on screen he is almost completely unrecognizable. If it weren't for his voice I may not have been able to pick him out so quickly. But in that youthful persona you can see the workings of a future star. His performance wasn't anything amazing, but it definitely helped keep the film's cookie-cutter melodramatic plot going. It's funny to think that he would not become a household name until Sunset Blvd., 11 years later.

Barbara Stanwyck is terrific as usual, playing Holden's love interest in the film, and Adolph Menjou is entertaining as the man who becomes Holden's boxing manager. The real disappointment is Lee J Cobb's embarrassing and overly melodramatic performance of Holden's father. It's complete with a phony Italian accent that would make Chico Marx blush.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to see a young Holden in his first major role, or for fans of Barbara Stanwyck. Other than that it may be best to steer clear of this Mamoulain classic.
April 10, 2008
This movie is guaranteed to be horrible so here is some Billy Squire for your amusement:

"Now everybody, have you heard
If you're in the game, then the stroke's the word
Don't take no rhythm, don't take no style
Got a thirst for killin' - grab your vial... "

First person to name that song will get an invisible bowl of rice. Nothing will stifle hunger like Uncle Ben's invisible rice, homestyle.
February 10, 2008
Holden's breakout role is messed up with sappy melodrama and Odets' overbearing social commentary. Highlights are mostly the supporting roles. Beefcake lovers will not be disappointed with Holden's perfect physique - the movie or his acting isn't as good.
Super Reviewer
½ January 28, 2008
Barbara Stanwyck is fine as usual and William Holden does well considering it was his first lead but Lee J. Cobb, usually a fine actor, overdoes his part to the nth degree.
½ January 20, 2008
A movie that made William Holden and cemented Barbara Stanwyck.
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