Golden Boy

If Clifford Odets' play seems impossibly shopworn today - boy from poverty row is tempted to abandon Art and his violin for the quick but brutalising rewards of the boxing-ring - at least this adaptation prunes away the worst, pseudo-poetical excesses of the original dialogue. Gone, too, is the character of the labour organiser, mouthpiece for Odets' flabby plea that the hero's choice is a matter for concern in terms of the on-going struggle between Capital and Labour. What's left is melodrama, with the dilemma couched largely in moral and personal terms, and it stands up pretty well under Mamoulian's stylish direction, with its chiaroscuro lighting effects, savage final fight (shot with subjective camera), and gallery of excellent performances. Holden (in his film debut) is good in the title role; but the real treats are Menjou's mournfully cynical fight manager, Stanwyck's melting moll, and Calleia's wonderfully serio-comic, trigger-itchy gangster.

Release details

Duration: 99 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Screenwriter: Daniel Taradash, Lewis Meltzer, Sarah Y Mason, Victor Heerman
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck
William Holden
Adolphe Menjou
Lee J Cobb
Joseph Calleia
Sam Levene
Edward Brophy