James J. Braddock, the Cinderella Man who scored one of the greatest heavyweight upsets in boxing history when he beat Max Baer in 1935 for the title, is now in the midst of his second great comeback. With a couple of big books, including Jeremy Schaap's excellent "Cinderella Man," and the new movie by the same title (Schaap was not involved in the film), his story is everywhere.
Schaap's book is compelling stuff and worth the read. Going to check out the movie, and don't want to turn a few hundred pages? Read on for a look at how the screen version of Braddock compares to the real man.
In Reel Life: Opening credits: Ron Howard, director. Russell Crowe
as James Braddock.
In Real Life: Imagine this: Billy Bob Thornton directing Ben Affleck as Braddock. That appeared to be the most likely scenario back in August of 2000, when Greg Dean Schmitz, who writes "Greg's Previews" for Yahoo!, began tracking the production.
In Reel Life: It's the late 1920s, and Braddock (Crowe)
is a promising young boxer celebrating a victory with his manager, Joe
Gould (Paul Giamatti).
In Real Life: Yep. Braddock was on his way up as a light heavyweight until, at age 24, he suffered a humiliating defeat to champion Tommy Loughran. He didn't recover for years, and went from being young and flush in the Roaring '20s to a poor, journeyman boxer by the early 1930s.
|Check out The Sports Guy's review and Page 3's interview with Russell Crowe, and then vote for best boxing nickname ever. For original Braddock-Baer fight video, check out ESPN360.com.|
In Real Life: It looked like it. Braddock wouldn't fight again for nine months.
In Reel Life Braddock goes right back to looking for work,
using shoe polish to blacken the cast, in order to hide it. Only a few of the
hundreds of men who line up get work, and Braddock is one of them.
This is due to his mild subterfuge and the help of his new friend,
Mike Wilson (Paddy Considine). Mike's a former Wall Street broker,
who lost it all in the great crash of 1929.
In Real Life Braddock didn't go back to work until the cast was off, writes Schaap. And Wilson? Never existed.
In Reel LifeThe Braddocks miss payment on their milk, and it
stops being delivered. Then they fail to pay their electric bill, and
their electricity is shut off. It's winter, it's cold, and they're in
In Real Life: All true.
In Reel Life: When winter comes, it's very cold, and with no
electricity, we see Jim talking to his wife, Mae (Renée Zellweger), in
the kitchen in their dismal apartment. In the same room, the
children sleep. We can see the vapor come from Jim and Mae's mouths
when they speak, and from the children's mouths as they sleep.
In Real Life: Modern tech. That vapor was artificially created, filmed "live," and inserted later using computers.