June 2, 2005, - 3:18 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
If you see any movie, this year, go see “Cinderella Man.” Not only is it a great movie, but it’s patriotic, too! Patriotism and Hollywood–two things that generally mix like oil and water. But in this rare case, love for America and the American dream is actually manifest. Russell Crowe, who plays boxer James J. Braddock, is tremendous (and I’m no Crowe fan). Braddock comes back from the dregs of the 1930s Depression to become Heavyweight Champion of the World, despite being an underdog in every fight. After the biggest fight of the movie, which he wins, he remarks, “This is the greatest country.”
Still, there are some inaccuracies, mostly in the physical size of fighter Max Baer (whom Braddock beats to win the Heavyweight title). “Cinderella Man’s” Baer, played by actor Craig Bierko, is a Goliath to Crowe’s Braddock. In real life, both Baer and Braddock were 6′ 2 1/2″ with Baer weighing about 15 pounds more than Braddock. The movie’s physical difference in the size of the actors is misleading.
Then there is the misconception, which has nothing to do with the movie, that Baer was Jewish. His paternal grandfather was a Jew. That’s it. But he wore a giant Star of David (Jewish Star) on his boxing shorts (barely visible, unless you really look, in “Cinderella Man”). He wore the star not just out of respect for his Jewish heritage, but because it was a smart marketing ploy to the plethora of Jewish boxing fans in the day. In the ’30s, everyone hated the Irish (Braddock) and the Jews. And each of them needed someone to root for. Baer, who later became an actor, and so did his son, Max Baer, Jr.–whom you probably know as Jethro Bodine on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Tags: actor, America, boxer, boxing, Cinderella Man, Craig Bierko, Debbie Schlussel, James J. Braddock, Jr., Max Baer, oil, Russell Crowe, The Beverly Hillbillies