October 29, 1929, some may know it as Black Tuesday, others know it as an important date in history but those who lived it know it as the day that changed their lives for many years to come. Black Tuesday marked the beginning of a new life style for the people of the 30’s. The stock marked crashed and although its investors lost all they had, margin buyers were completely wiped out. This essay will examine the changes that followed the event that marked the Great Depression through the lives of James Braddock, Mae Braddock and the society as shown in the movie “Cinderella Man”.
James J. Braddock once said, “I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them.” When the great depression began Braddock lost all his money, job and for an amount of time electricity, but his hope and pride was something he never fell short of. James Braddock was not always the boxer he is now known to be, in the 1920’s he had lost one third of his fights and people referred to him as a “bum” – the lowest name you could label a boxer at the time. Despite a broken hand and the hatred the crowd brought upon him, Braddock never hesitated to do his best on the rink, but Jimmy Johnston failed to see this. Johnston fired Braddock as the great depression hit, leaving James with nothing but a broken hand to come home with. Braddock spent little time dwelling on the fact that he had just lost his job and instead covered the cast that secured his broken hand with black shoe shiner and made his way to the docks the next morning in hopes of being one of the few lucky men to be chosen. Money was tight, but when his son, Howard, came home with a stolen salami Braddock didn’t think twice to return the salami that could be very useful for the family to its oblivious owner. When the chance to return to the boxing rink knocked on his front door, James Braddock accepted without hesitation. His luck began to turn around as more money made its way into Jim’s pocket. A couple of fights later James J. Braddock went from a poor local fighter to the world’s best heavy weight champion and earned his nickname, Cinderella Man. Jim then paid back the relief money he received while in need, allowing the bank to support those who lined up to collect every cent they could get with less difficulty. It was a rollercoaster-like journey, and although there were difficulties Braddock never regretted the choices he made, the choices his wife, Mae Braddock, stood by every step of the way.
Some may have seen Mae Braddock as just another unfortunate wife, for she, like many others, had a husband with a low income that struggled to support the family, Mae disagreed. Mae Braddock loved her husband very much, rich or poor she wanted no one other than James J. Braddock. They had three children, James, Howard and Rosemarie. When sickness threatened one of their children’s life, Mae decided to send their kids away to a home where she thought they would be safer. A disappointed and defeated Jim disagreed with Mae’s decision and decided to consult his former boxing buddies for help to pay the bills in order to make their home a safer environment for the kids. Although Mae knew people frowned upon asking others for money, she stood by Jim careless to what others would say. Mae Braddock took up sewing to help James support the family they both knew and loved. Although Mae didn’t completely approve of the life-threatening boxing matches Jim fought to sustain the Braddock family, she never abstained him from the sport. A caring mother and loving wife, that is who Mae Braddock should be known as.
Although not a character, the changes society faced played a big part in the great depression. Many people lost their homes because they couldn’t afford rent which caused a great amount of men to move into what was called “Hoover Ville”. Riots and chaos were no strangers to Hoover Ville, men got into fights a great amount of times and some were severely injured through this process, others – like Mike, James Braddock’s friend – were beat to death. Life styles changed dramatically, unlike in the roaring 20’s several kids found themselves sharing one birthday cake, others weren’t even entitled to one. The government tried to show their support by providing social assistance to the great amount of people in need. Relief money was available to anyone who was willing to risk their reputation by lining up at the bank to receive it. Pride was extremely important to the people of the 30’s and some would rather die than ask another for help.
The loss the New York Stock Market faced of $30 billion dollars marked the beginning of the Great Depression. People were faced with choices they never thought they would have to make, families were broken apart and many committed suicide because they failed to cope with the shameful lifestyle the 30’s brought upon them. James J. Braddock, Mae Braddock and the unforgettable part the society played in the movie “Cinderella Man” showed us the changes people of the 30’s faced as the Great Depression hit and the decisions they made to cope with the situation many never recovered from. October 29, 1929, the day that brought us all together.
© Copyright 2018 Kinah. All rights reserved.
‘Choose two or more of the central characters and describe them. How has Ron Howard directed your response to them? Do these characters change during the course of the film?’
Cinderella Man is a 2005 American drama film directed by Ron Howard. The film is based on real-life events that focus on the life of the professional boxer James J. Braddock and his struggle through the Great Depression. The main characters portrayed in the film are very diverse and versatile throughout the story. Howard’s technique was to construct the characters to all have unique and varied personalities which make the viewer feel more immersed in the film. Throughout the film, the main characters undergo a change in personality which allows them to dynamically change with the story.
James J. Braddock is an excellent example of Howard’s technique in the film; to create a dynamic and heroic character who defies the odds. James J. Braddock is first encountered in the first scene of the film, fighting an opponent in the boxing ring and winning by knockout. Braddock’s attitude for winning in the opening scene highlights Braddock’s success as a boxer before the events of the Great Depression. Five years later, during the time of the Great Depression, Braddock and his family are shown to be in a small house with very low lighting, in contrast to the suburban house they used to own. Howard used this scene to mark the first major turning point in the film. Braddock is faced with an opportunity to briefly return to the ring to support his family, and despite his injuries and his aging body he accepts the fight.
“I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them”. The determination shown by Braddock is another turning point in the film and allows him to continue fighting regularly to support his family. Throughout Braddock’s fights and injuries in the film, his thoughts of his family and future allow him to surpass his struggles and ultimately win the world title from Max Baer. Braddock developed from an unemployed father to a fighting spirit giving a feeling of hope to everybody affected by the depression, which earned him the name “Cinderella Man”.
Likewise to Braddock’s determination and hope for the future, his manager Joe Gould is a character who possesses a wide array of personalities while still having sympathy towards Braddock and his family. Gould had been Braddock’s manager for years and they were good friends. Howard portrayed Gould to have a cunning and witty attitude towards Braddock. During the events of the Great Depression, Gould maintained the appearance of a wealthy, successful businessman. However he was struggling just as much as Braddock and his family were. Gould did this so he would not risk losing his job. “You just don’t want folks to see ya down”.
Mae Braddock criticised Gould for being selfish and only caring about his image, but despite Gould owning a luxurious apartment and expensive clothing, his apartment was empty due to Gould selling his belongings to pay for Braddock’s training. The purpose of this technique used by Howard is to use the apartment to mirror Gould’s personality. Both the apartment and Gould maintain a pompous image on the outside, but on the inside there is a sense of understanding and pain for Braddock.
In contrast to Braddock and Gould, Max Baer is portrayed by Howard as a very arrogant and aggressive character who is seen to have fashion and swagger, contrasting with Braddock’s circumstances during the depression. Max Baer was the World Champion in boxing during the Great Depression, best known for killing two men in the ring. Baer was a very hostile fighter and fought very aggressively with his opponents, whom he often maimed or even killed. Despite having a wife, Baer was seen with two other women in a hotel room which highlights his personality of being very callous or malicious. Prior to his fight with Braddock, Baer confronted him and told him to drop out of the fight. “It’s no joke, pal. People die in fairytales all the time”.
The camera angle facing upwards to Baer as he said those words to Braddock emphasized his violent personality and made him seem much more powerful and intimidating. During his fight with Braddock, Baer displayed his injustice towards Braddock and his family by talking about Mae in uncivilised contexts. Baer also decided to fight in a very hostile and unfair way due to Braddock fighting against the odds and making it past the first round, which he was not expected to do. Baer’s arrogance ultimately helped in his demise and Braddock emerged victorious.
Throughout the film Cinderella Man, the main characters all develop and show new personalities from their experiences in the film. The response of the audience towards the central characters changes over the course of the film and the true colours and personalities of the characters shine through up to the concluding scene of the film.