(director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: Vincent Lawrence/James J. Corbett’s autobiography The Roar of the Crowd; cinematographer: Sidney Hickox; editor: Jack Killifer; music: Heinz Roemheld; cast: Errol Flynn (James J. Corbett aka Gentleman Jim), Alexis Smith (Victoria Ware), Jack Carson (Walter Lowrie), Alan Hale (Pat Corbett), John Loder (Carlton De Witt), William Frawley (Billy Delaney); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Buckner; Warner Brothers; 1942)

“Errol Flynn excels as the brash, social-climbing Corbett.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Noted action filmmaker Raoul Walsh (“The Strawberry Blonde”) directs this affectionate, comical and engaging sports biopic based on the autobiography The Roar of the Crowd by James J. Corbett, proving he can be effective in making dramatic films as well as action ones. He tells of the colorful Irish-American James Corbett (Errol Flynn), nicknamed Gentleman Jim, rising out of the San Francisco slums in the 1880s to become an office clerk and eventually the heavyweight championship of the world.

The film gives the viewer a good picture of the pre-Queensberry fight scene, the family scenes revolving around his brawling Irish family (at least among his street-fighting brothers), and it leads up to the centerpiece championship fight where Corbett upsets the greatly respected John L. Sullivan (Ward Bond) in 1892. It’s hardly accurate, as it conforms to the Hollywood way to shoot a biopic, but the lavish production (at least it looked that way, even though WB made it on the cheap) is eye-catching and always entertaining.

Errol Flynn excels as the brash, social-climbing Corbett, a bit of an “asshole” (in real life Corbett was a self-effacing mild-mannered bloke, fully earning his right to be called Gentleman Jim). It’s reputed to be Flynn’s favorite movie role. Alexis Smith plays Corbett’s love interest, a woman of social standing who at first can’t stand his boastful arrogance but soon softens and sees his better side.