Thursday, July 29, 2010

Right Cross: Review

Right Cross, released in 1950, was directed by John Sturges (The Great Escape) and written by Charles Schnee (Butterfield 8). The film stars June Allyson, Ricardo Montalban, and Dick Powell. The film also featured small appearances by Lionel Barrymore and Marilyn Monroe.

Right Cross is a drama that centers around the lives of three individuals in the world of professional boxing and is very reminiscent of the stories of Nelson Algren (Man With The Golden Arm, Neon Wilderness). In the film, prizefighter Johnny Monterez (Montalban) is in love with Pat O'Malley (Allyson) who is the daughter of his promoter Sean O'Malley (Barrymore). His best friend, sardonic sports reporter Rick Garvey(Powell), is also in love with Pat but knows that she loves Johnny. As any good depressed writer will do, Rick takes up drinking and womanizing. (cue Marilyn Monroe)

Unfortunately for Johnny, his boxing days are about over, so he has to fight fast to make as much money as he can before his right hand gives out and he will be washed up. Johnny is offered the opportunity of a lifetime by a big time promoter but standing in his way of a big payday fight is his lady-love's father, who he is still under contract with as his promoter.

The issue of ethnicity and the idea of making in the “Gringo” world is an important part of the film. Throughout, Monterez talks about the prejudice he has had to endure in his life, but in the film none of this is actually shown and one is lead to believe that this prejudice Johnny has experienced is based mostly on his own paranoia and misunderstanding. Which on one hand is an interesting way of looking at the problems of race in the United States circa 1950, but its also dismissive and more than a little troubling.

Though the film is at times melodramatic in a very typical 1950's Hollywood studio way, it still features strong performances from Allyson and Powell, and what might be one of Montalban's best. John Sturges direction is solid and does provide a glimpse of what he was capable of and audiences would see in a few years. Another strong part of the film was the score provided by composer David Raksin and was conducted by Raksin and Johnny Green.

Right Cross isn't a great film by any stretch but it is entertaining. Unfortunately, the film is currently unavailable on video or DVD but does occasionally turn up on Turner Classic Movies.

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