Tuesday 18 September 2018 photo 5/8
The The Big Chance
Gangsters try to get a boxer to throw an important fight.
Frankie, a young prizefighter, wins a fixed boxing match as part of a crime boss's plan to have him build up a following and then have him throw a championship fight. Later, while training, Frankie meets Mary as she is going to church with her family, and he begins a romance with her. The crime boss orders Frankie to stay away from Mary, while continuing to arrange for Frankie to win more fights. Just before Frankie's fight with the champion, he and the boss have an argument. Their plans to fix the fight are overheard by Mary's young brother, which soon leads to a tense situation.
This B-feature has a solid if largely familiar setup, and the story line is all right, though rather predictable. But in many other respects, this could have been a better movie. The production values are quite weak, and most of the characters are strictly one-dimensional cardboard figures. The script has a couple of good moments, but many more dry stretches.
The story centers on a young boxer who is made the beneficiary of a series of fixed fights, so that a crime boss can get him a championship fight. Along the way, the boxer gets a girlfriend of whom the boss disapproves, and she and her younger brother cause complications as the big fight approaches.
There's little new in the story, but such a story can easily lead to enjoyable drama with a decent cast and production. But except for Hank Mann, who does a solid job as the boxer's loyal trainer, and a very young Mickey Rooney, who shows some energy as the girlfriend's younger brother, the cast is adequate but generally nondescript.
The production values are also noticeably low. Except for a briefly entertaining verbal exchange during the opening bout, the boxing scenes don't work well at all, as they consist mostly of low-quality stock footage being edited together in a generally unconvincing fashion with shots of the actors attempting to look as if they are boxing. The script also misses some opportunities, prematurely resolving some potentially interesting tensions, and wasting time on a digression with a vamp hired by the boss, which leads to little of dramatic interest.
It does move fairly quickly, and it lasts less than an hour. And there are certainly worse things you could do with your time. But there are a great many movies, even those with limited budgets, that work much better than this one does.
This film contains a lot of delights. Seeing Mickey Rooney, four or five years before hitting the big time in the Andy Hardy series, is fun. I also enjoyed Hank Mann as the sidekick. He was terrific in Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights" two years before. His boxing scene with Chaplin may be the funniest fight scene in any movie. He doesn't have much to do in this movie, but he does add nice comic touches. There are a lot of rural shots that are a bit unusual for the time period. Many early talkies were bogged down in the studio due to the heavy cameras and poor microphones of the time, but this seems to enjoy a silent movie freedom of camera movement. The lead, John Darrow is quite handsome and charming. He really could have been another James Cagney if the breaks had gone his way.
There is only one real fight scene in the movie. It is obviously edited with some documentary footage, but it is reasonably well done. The movie is pretty gentle, even with its gangster/fixed fight sub theme. The romance is really the key element here and Darrow and Merna Kennedy make a really nice couple. There seems to be some genuine affection or seduction going on between them.
At only an hour's running time, this is certainly no epic, but it moves well and is an entertaining quickie. I recommend it for those who enjoy golden age movie making.
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