Skip to comments.The biggest thing 'Cinderella Man' got wrong
Posted on 06/11/2005 10:04:53 PM PDT by ambrose
The biggest thing 'Cinderella Man' got wrong
Posted by: Frank Lotierzo on 06-09-2005.
By Frank Lotierzo
The movie Cinderella Man, as most know by now, chronicles the story of heavyweight James J. Braddock's (Russell Crowe) rise during the Depression to capture the world heavyweight championship.
Braddock's upset win over champion Max Baer (Craig Bierko) was like winning the lottery 15 times the 15 representing the rounds Braddock survived without getting knocked out by Baer's legendary right hand. Baer's right hand was then and is still considered by many boxing historians as one of the hardest single punches in boxing history.
Braddock was a man of great character and also a good light heavyweight and heavyweight fighter. However, after only losing twice in his first 36 bouts, his life spiraled downward after losing a decision to light heavyweight champ Tommy Loughran in July 1929. Three months after losing to Loughran, America was confronted with Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed (Oct. 29, 1929).
The film tells how Braddock lost everything when the market crashed, broke his hand, had his boxing license revoked and worked on the docks when there was work, which wasn't often. After failing to win the light heavyweight title against Loughran, Braddock started to lose. But lady luck touched Braddock after he lost a decision to Art Stillman. He went on a six-bout undefeated streak and got a shot at Baer's heavyweight title.
Braddock only won 14 of 36 fights after losing to Loughran before challenging Baer, resulting in him being a 10-to-1 underdog. Up until Braddock's title challenge of Baer, "Cinderella Man," the title taken from legendary journalist Damon Runyon's description of the fighter's comeback, is an accurate portrayal of the life and times of Braddock.
But Hollywood's attempt to turn Baer into a cruel and heartless villain is where the film really strays from reality.
The film portrays Baer as if he purposely killed two opponents, Frankie Campbell and Ernie Schaaf and then gloated about it afterward. But Baer didn't gloat and was forever tormented by the fact that two men he fought had died at his hands.
And Baer's son, Max Baer Jr., who starred in hit TV show The Beverly Hillbillies, is irate over his father's portrayal.
"The portrayal of my father in Cinderella Man couldn't have been more wrong and inaccurate," Baer Jr. said. "They turned a good-hearted, fun-loving, friendly and warm human being who hated boxing into Mr. T from Rocky III with no redeeming characteristics."
Baer Jr. said his father wept over the deaths of Campbell and Schaaf, and the incidents led him to start smoking, drinking and having nightmares. Campbell died as a result of a severe concussion of the brain after being stopped by Baer in the fifth round. And Baer Jr. said his father did an exhibition for Frankie Campbell's wife after that, raising over $10,000 for her. And Baer went on to lose four of his next five fights in the fight's aftermath.
Two years after fighting Campbell, Baer fought a rematch with Schaaf. Baer knocked Schaaf out with two seconds left in the fight but the bell saved him and he won by decision. Schaaf was out cold for three minutes however.
But Schaaf recovered, and six months later, as a 7-5 favorite, was stopped by Primo Carnera in the 13th round. He died four days after the Carnera fight, and Baer is blamed for his death in the movie. But what the movie leaves out is Schaaf was coming off two strong wins heading into his bout with Carnera. The autopsy showed that Schaaf died of cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) and meningitis, brought on by a recent bout of the flu.
And for those of you willing to cut the filmmakers some dramatic slack as they crafted their movie villain, consider what Braddock himself said.
"You see, Max, he was a nice fellow, but never should've been a fighter," Braddock said in the 1972 book In This Corner. "I always said that Max should have been an actor instead of a fighter."
And Baer Jr. saw some of that in his father as well.
"Like Muhammad Ali, he was braggadocios by nature," Baer Jr. said. "But he was also trying to increase the revenue at the gate and like all people during the Depression: The money was the single most important thing."
The climatic scene of Cinderella Man is Braddock's title-winning bout over Baer in 1935. Braddock's 15-round unanimous decision as a 10-1 underdog was the biggest upset in a heavyweight title bout in boxing history a record that stood until Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson as a 42-1 underdog in 1990.
Overall, Cinderella Man is an outstanding Hollywood production, but one with a dangerous depiction of a very real human being.
"Anyone who knew my father, even slightly, liked him," Baer Jr. said. "In making a good movie, being true to the main characters is absolutely mandatory. By the same token, taking the adversary and turning him into a hateful cartoon was unnecessary, especially when that person was a real human being with a real reputation.
"Before this movie, I thought a lot more of Ron Howard."
Great film... sorry to see that it took the usual Hollyweird dramatic license to come up with a cartoonish villain.
However, it should be noted that in the final scene, Baer is congratulating Braddock like a good sport, and he happily sprints out of the ring.
Jethro Bodine had been clean through the sixth grade before Opie had even finished wiping his @ss with his hand. Things ain't changed much.
Max Baer Jr. - not living large, apparently.
This seems to be a fair analysis of Baer. He was in boxing for the money as was Braddock.
I agree. Braddock's remarkable comeback against the backdrop of the Great Deporession provided more than enough adversity to make for an interesting story. No need to play with the facts.
Creating a human villain where none existed was not only hurtful but completely unnecessary to the plot (I wonder if Baer was a Republican?). Still, despite that significant drawback, I have to confess I loved the film. It managed to do something few flicks do: hold my attention for nearly 3 hours.
Max Baer, Jr. is not the kind of guy who needs to live large. After the Berverly Hillbillies ended, he couldn't get an acting job. So he pulled every string he could to produce, write and star in the movie Macon County Line. While it is mostly forgotten today, that $100,000 film caught fire and grossed $35 Million in 1974. It probably cleared $8 Million for Max. He used it to carefully put out a couple more films, neither of any note. But I'm pretty sure he still had $5-6 million left after he realized that the first film was a fluke of timing, story, and luck. That plus the Hillbillies $$ made him very comfortable.
Not everyone believes in the "if you got it, flaunt it" ethos that seems to pervade our society today.
Macon County Line was a good flick, I enjoyed it then, & now.
Bill Clinton had bad days too.
What ever happened to Buddy Baer, Max Baers brother who was also a boxer. I know they were both in a movie or two.
They were genial giants, brothers who enjoyed puns as much as punches.
In the 1930s, and for decades thereafter, Max and Buddy Baer were fixtures on the Sacramento scene as world-class heavyweight boxers, movie actors and professional good guys.
"I never liked to hurt people," Buddy once said, "and I never liked to get hurt myself."
Max was the eldest, born in Iowa in 1909. Jacob, known as "Buddy," was born six years later in Colorado. The family moved to California in 1928, eventually coming to Sacramento in the early 1930s.
As boxers, the Baers were hard punchers -- and big targets. Max was 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Buddy 6-6 and 250. Both had early success in the ring, although Max's career had been stymied after an opponent died in the ring in 1930. Max became frightened of his own punching power and lost four of his next six fights.
In Sacramento, however, the Baers took on a local bar owner named Ancil Hoffman as their manager. By 1934, Max was fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world against Primo Carnera. Baer won a bloody brawl, and Sacramento had its first and only world heavyweight champ. Max held the title for one day less than a year, when he lost it to James Braddock, a heavy underdog.
"I clowned away the title," Max said later, shrugging.
After losing the title, Baer fought Joe Louis in a bid to become the No. 1 contender. But Louis knocked him out in the fourth round.
"He hit me so hard I saw seven of him," Max joked afterward. "I kept hitting the one in the middle, but those other six just beat the hell out of me."
Max continued to fight until 1941 but never had another title shot. His brother had the dubious privilege of fighting Louis twice for the title. In the first fight, Buddy knocked Louis out of the ring in the first round but eventually lost. He lost a subsequent fight the following year and retired in 1942 to join the Army.
The Baers were as well known outside the ring as in it. After their boxing careers ended, both had film careers and appeared in nightclub acts. They owned several local businesses, from a saloon to a clothing store for big men. For a time, Buddy was an assistant sergeant-at-arms in the State Senate. They were also active in community and civic groups, helping to raise money for various causes by entertaining at fund-raising events.
Max Baer died in 1959, Buddy in 1986.
"When they died," wrote long-time Sacramento sports columnist Bill Conlin, "the 'sweet science' lost two of the sweetest."
Very ironic. The Baers have a history of being genuinely decent men while Crowe has the rep of a barroom brawler.
I wonder how much of that money he now has left.
Max Baer produced the BH along with some other sitcoms.
I would say he is doing prety good:----Old Wal-Mart still a site of contention
Owner Max Baer says he will not back down on plans to open a Hillbillies casino despite Wal-Mart's offer to buy its former site
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
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Appeal Staff Writer, email@example.com
April 6, 2005
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Despite an offer from Wal-Mart to re-purchase its old South Carson City location to develop a Sam's Club, Max Baer said Tuesday the building isn't for sale and the only thing he'll build there is a casino/hotel.
Rules for the Southgate Shopping Center, where the property is located, prohibit development of a recreational business, such as Baer's proposed Jethro's Beverly Hillbillies Mansion & Casino.
"There is a sign on the front of the store that says this store is owned by Max Baer Productions, and it's not for sale or lease," said Baer, who played Jethro Bodine in the popular 1960s sitcom, "The Beverly Hillbillies."
"My concept of putting a hotel/casino and movie theater there has not varied one iota. That's that. I intend to do it, or it's going to stay as is," he said.
And as it is, the old Wal-Mart at Southgate Shopping Center is an empty store front with no traffic, no tax revenue and about six surrounding vacancies.
A site consultant for Wal-Mart said Tuesday that the company offered to buy the property for "substantially in excess of what he (Baer) paid for it."
"Wal-Mart tendered an offer to the owner of their former store and the offer was respectfully rejected without a counter proposal," said consultant Doug Baker. "This was Wal-Mart's first attempt at re-acquiring the real estate for use as a Sam's Club location."
Wal-Mart vacated the South Carson City location in August 2002 and moved its supercenter to Douglas County. It has a Sam's Club bulk retailer in Reno.
Baer said he is not looking to sell for any price, and he's even honored that Wal-Mart inquired about the property, because, he said, that shows that he made a good investment.
"I have more money than I do time," the 67-year-old developer said. "It's more important for me to keep what I have and attempt to develop than it would be for me to sell it and move it someplace else."
Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira said he prefers to have a Sam's Club in that spot because of its benefits to the community, but he doesn't want to undermine Baer's right to develop his casino.
"If in fact he cannot build there, for him to sit there and do nothing is a penalty to this community," Teixeira said. "We have a Sam's Club that wants to locate in Carson City. These windows of opportunity don't come up often."
Baer said the only way this could be resolved is if J.C. Penney and the Glenbrook Co., which manages the shopping center, enter back into good-faith negotiations and amend the shopping center rules. But so far, neither company has relented. The shopping center's restrictive covenants were adopted in December 1992 and it would take an agreement between Baer, J.C. Penney and Glenbrook to amend it.
Mike Wiley, J.C. Penney store manager, said his corporation's attorneys have won in court against Baer concerning the covenants and they will not change them.
"J.C. Penney would be in favor of anything that's retail, and Sam's Club would be a nice fit for this mall and for the community," Wiley said.
Baer said it isn't good for the community that the building stays vacant, and it isn't good for business, but if J.C. Penney and Glenbrook cannot negotiate on the rules, then that's how it's going to stay.
"My attitude is this is the United States of America, and I get to do with my property what I want to do with it," he said. "It isn't up to someone who doesn't own the property as to what I do with it."
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
Baer purchased the property for $4.3 million in August 2003 from King Ventures, which purchased it from Wal-Mart. His plans include a 200-foot flaming oil derrick, 30,000-square-foot casino with 800 slot machines and 16 gaming tables, a 14-screen theater, a 240-room hotel and restaurants with a "Beverly Hillbillies" theme.
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