As bare-knuckled boxing enters the modern era, brash extrovert Jim Corbett uses new rules and dazzlingly innovative footwork to rise to the top of the boxing world.
If I get lost, I'll send up a rocket. Loosely based on the James J Corbett biography "The Roar Of The Crowd", Gentleman Jim is a wonderfully breezy picture that perfectly encapsulates not only the rise of the pugilistic prancer that was Corbett, but also the wind of change as regards the sport of boxing circa the 1890s. It was like trying to hit a ghost! The story follows Corbett (a perfectly cast Errol Flynn) from his humble beginnings as a bank teller in San Fransico, through to a chance fight with an ex boxing champion that eventually leads to him fighting the fearsome heavyweight champion of the world, John L Sullivan (beefcake personified delightfully by Ward Bond). Not all the fights are in the ring though, and it's all the spin off vignettes in Corbett's life that makes this a grand entertaining picture. There are class issues to overcome here (perfectly played out as fellow club members pay to have him knocked down a peg or two), and Corbett has to not only fight to get respect from his so called peers, but he must also overcome his ego as it grows as briskly as his reputation does. Along with the quite wonderful Corbett family, and all their stoic humorous support, Corbett's journey is as enthralling as it is joyous, yet as brash and as bold as he is, he is a very likable character, and it's a character that befits the tagged moniker he got of Gentleman Jim. The film never sags for one moment, and it's a testament to director Raoul Walsh that although we are eagerly awaiting the final fight, the outer ring goings on are keeping us firmly entertained, not even the love interest sub plot hurts this picture (thank you Alexis Smith). The fight sequences stand up really well, and they perfectly show just how Corbett became the champ he was, his brand of dancing rings round slugger fighters is now firmly placed in boxing history. As the final reel rolls we all come down to earth as an after fight meeting between Sullivan and Corbett puts all the brutality into context, and it's here where humility and humbleness becomes the outright winner, and as far as this viewer goes, it will do for me to be sure to be sure. 9/10 for a truly wonderful picture.