Warner Bros has managed to turn out a good film based on the life of James J. Corbett. In doing so, however, the scenarists have sacrificed a good deal of one of the best reputations the boxing game has ever known.
On celluloid, Corbett is a ‘wise-guy’, brash character oozing with braggadocio. In real life the heavyweight champ was a self-effacing, quiet personality so distinctly apart from the general run of mugg fighters of that day that the ‘gentleman’ tag was a natural.
Errol Flynn is the screen Corbett and is a real-life prototype only in the fact that Corbett was a bank clerk in Frisco and that his father was a bluff Irishman who operated a livery stable.
From there on, with the exception of some of Corbett’s fights, the film is pure fiction. Corbett is shown as a young bachelor, who, because he got a prominent judge out of an embarrassing jam at an illegal bareknuckle fight, gets favored treatment at the bank where he’s employed; meets the beauteous daughter of a millionaire miner and thus gains entrance to Frisco’s famed Olympic club. At a party, according to the film, Corbett and his friend, Jack Carson, are tossed out of the Olympic when liquor makes Carson’s mouth and feet misbehave.
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This is so far removed from fact that it’s ludicrous. Corbett was a revered member of the Olympic club to the very end.
All this fiction, plus the scenarists’ depiction of Sullivan, after being kayoed by Corbett, calling on the latter to wish him well and present him with his championship belt, take this picture out of the biographical class and into fantasy.