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Cinderella Man is a 2005 American drama film by Ron Howard, titled after the nickname of heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock and inspired by his life story. The film was produced by Howard, Penny Marshall, and Brian Grazer.

Plot synopsis

James J. Braddock is a hard-nosed, Irish-American boxer from New Jerseymarker, formerly a light heavyweight contender, who is forced to give up boxing after breaking his hand in the ring. This is a relief and an upset to his wife, Mae, who cannot bring herself to watch the violence of his chosen profession, and yet knows without him boxing they'll have no good income.

As the United States enters the Great Depression, Braddock does manual labor to support his family. Thanks to a last-minute cancellation by another boxer, Braddock's longtime manager Joe Gould offers him a chance to fill in for just this one night and make a little money. The fight is against the number two contender in the world and Braddock is seen as little more than a convenient punching bag.

Braddock stuns the boxing experts and fans with a third-round knockout of his formidable opponent. He believes that because his hand is now healed, he is fit to fight. Against his wife's wishes, Braddock takes up Gould's offer to return to the ring.

Mae resents this attempt by Gould to profit off her husband's dangerous livelihood until she discovers that Gould and his wife also have been devastated by hard times.

With a shot at heavyweight champion Max Baer a possibility, Braddock continues to win. Out of a sense of pride, he uses a portion of his prize money to pay back money to the government given to him while unemployed. His rags-to-riches story gets out, the sportswriter Damon Runyon dubs him "The Cinderella Man" and before long Braddock comes to represent the hopes and aspirations of the American public coping with the Depression.

A title fight comes his way. Braddock is a 10-to-1 underdog. Mae is terrified because Baer, the champ, is a vicious man who reportedly has killed at least two men in the ring. He is so destructive that the fight's promoter, Johnson, forces both Braddock and Gould to watch a film of Baer in action, just so he can maintain later that he warned them what Braddock was up against.

Braddock demonstrates no fear. The arrogant Baer attempts to intimidate him, even taunting Mae in public that her man might not survive. She cannot bring herself to attend the fight at Madison Square Gardenmarker or even to listen to it on the radio.

On June 13, 1935, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, Braddock defeats the seemingly invincible Baer to become the heavyweight champion of the world.



During filming in Torontomarker, several areas were redressed to resemble 1930s New York. The Richmond Street side of the The Bay’s Queen Street store was redressed as Madison Square Gardenmarker, complete with fake store fronts and period stop lights. A stretch of Queen Street East between Broadview and Carlaw was also made up to appear to be from the 1930s and dozens of period cars were parked along the road. Maple Leaf Gardensmarker was also used for all the fight scenes. Many scenes were filmed in the Distillery Districtmarker. Filming also took place in Hamilton, Ontariomarker at the harbour for the dock workers' scene.

The TTC's historic Peter Witt streetcar and two more Witts from the nearby Halton County Radial Railwaymarker were used for the filming (in the opening scene if you look closely you can see the TTC logo on the streetcar), travelling on Toronto’s existing streetcar tracks .


Although the movie received very good reviews from most critics and audiences, it fared relatively poorly at the box office during its first several weeks. During its North American theatrical run, the movie (which cost $88 million) had earned only approximately $60 million. There are several theories as to why ticket sales were so low:


The film was released in summer, the season of the blockbuster. Would-be Oscar nominees are usually released from autumn onwards, culminating around the Christmas holidays. It also coincided relatively closely with Million Dollar Baby, another boxing movie that was extremely popular and well-reviewed. Some fans believe that Russell Crowe's outlandish behavior at a NYC hotel in June of that year where he threw a phone at a worker may have contributed to the poor box office support of his film.

Depiction of Max Baer

Max Baer is portrayed as a brutal person who behaves inappropriately outside the ring and viciously inside it (to the point of killing two opponents in the ring). Baer's relatives and boxing historians have criticized the film's depiction of him, arguing that he killed only one man in the ring, Frankie Campbell, not two (in the movie, it is stated that he also caused the--slightly delayed--death of Ernie Schaaf, something commonly claimed by the press at the time, but never proven), and was considered by many to be a gentleman. This is supported by historical evidence which shows that Baer's demeanor, both within and outside the ring, was much less brutal than the film portrayed, and he often cracked jokes.

However, the portrayal of Max Baer's style of boxing in the movie is very close to what happened in the actual boxing contest.

The author of the book on which the movie was based has asserted that Baer was kind, charismatic, loved and respected, and pointed out the emotional pain that Baer endured the rest of his life following Campbell's death, and the fact that he gave purses from his bouts to Campbell's family to help give Campbell's children an education.

The depiction of Max Baer in the film is no different from his depiction in the press at the time, and this image was often used by promoters to attract interest in his fights. Also, the Max Baer on screen never actually boasts about killing Campbell or Schaaf, although he does warn Braddock that he may die if he fights him, and offers to "take care" of his wife once he is gone, blowing a kiss to her as he does so. The real Max Baer (who was also an actor) starred as a much more negatively depicted, hostile boxer in the movie The Harder They Fall, which holds many similarities to him in real life.

Max Baer was actually a Jewish activist – he wore a large Star of David on his boxing shorts in fights. That star makes it easy to distinguish Baer from Braddock in the black and white films of the original boxing contest.

Exhibitors' refund offers

In a campaign to boost ticket sales after the film's disappointing opening, AMC Theatres advertised on June 24, 2005 that in 30 markets (about 150 theaters nationwide), it would offer a refund to any ticket-buyer dissatisfied with the film. The advertisement, published in The New York Times and other papers and on internet film sites, read, "AMC believes Cinderella Man is one of the finest motion pictures of the year! We believe so strongly that you'll enjoy Cinderella Man we're offering a Money Back Guarantee." The promotion moderately increased box office revenue for a short period, while at least 50 patrons demanded refunds. Following suit, Cinemark Theatres also offered a money-back guarantee in 25 markets that did not compete with AMC Theaters. AMC had last employed such a strategy (in limited markets) for the 1988 release of Mystic Pizza, while 20th Century Fox had unsuccessfully tried a similar ploy for its 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street.

Awards and nominations

Academy Award

BAFTA Award Golden Globe Award
  • Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Russell Crowe) (Nominated)
  • Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture (Paul Giamatti) (Nominated)

Screen Actors Guild Award
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor - Motion Picture (Paul Giamatti) (Won)
  • Outstanding Actor - Motion Picture (Russell Crowe) (Nominated)


  1. Rotten Tomatoes compilation of reviews
  2. IMDB business information
  3. Film of real contest between Baer and Braddock
  4. see #4

External links

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