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GENTLEMAN JIM


HoldenIsHere
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Maybe we can call it one of the best Alexis Smith movies, since it is her day after all!  They made four pictures at Warners, and this was the only one of their collaborations that wasn't in Technicolor.

 

Supposedly, he had a mild heart attack (or else chest pains that resembled an attack) during the filming of the boxing scenes.

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Great special TCM had on boxing in movies.    Flynn got a lot of praise for his fighting scenes in the movie.    Boxer Ray Mancini did say that Flynn was too good looking for the role (i.e. a real boxer wouldn't look that good),  but one of the other host (a boxing announcer),  pointed out the Gentleman Jim really was a very good looking guy and hadn't fought too many fights before the Sulivan match.  He also teased Ray that he was just jealous because he was ugly and Flynn wasn't.    The exchange was funny and informative.

 

But all the hosts felt Flynn had great footwork and really moved and looked like a boxer.

 

They showed a film of Cagney boxing (from The Irish in Us?),  and Cagney looked like a fake.  The punching was a joke with wild swings all over the place.   They pointed out Cagney claimed to have boxing experience but it didn't show from the clip they played.

 

Gentleman Jim:  One of his best movies for sure.  

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Great special TCM had on boxing in movies.    Flynn got a lot of praise for his fighting scenes in the movie.    Boxer Ray Mancini did say that Flynn was too good looking for the role (i.e. a real boxer wouldn't look that good),  but one of the other host (a boxing announcer),  pointed out the Gentleman Jim really was a very good looking guy and hadn't fought too many fights before the Sulivan match.  He also teased Ray that he was just jealous because he was ugly and Flynn wasn't.    The exchange was funny and informative.

 

But all the host felt Flynn had great footwork and really moved and looked like a boxer.

 

 

James, before Boom Boom made such a big deal about Flynn being "too pretty" to be a boxer, he admitted that he had some good moves in the ring.

 

Of far greater significance to me in that brief appraisal of Flynn and Cagney's boxing credibility on screen, were the comments of Angelo Dundee, the long time fight manager of, among others, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. Dundee was one of the great insiders of the fight game who, among other things, forced a young Cassius Clay to continue fighting after Clay said he was ready to quit during the first Liston fight after a stinging substance got into his eyes and he was temporarily blinded and confused. If it wasn't for Dundee, Clay/Ali would not have become champion that night.

 

I found Dundee's comments about Flynn's fight scenes in Gentleman Jim to be illuminating. "My God," he said of Flynn's boxing style, "there's so much talent there it's scary. I would have wanted to manage that guy."

 

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James, before Boom Boom made such a big deal about Flynn being "too pretty" to be a boxer, he admitted that he had some good moves in the ring.

 

Of far greater significance to me in that brief appraisal of Flynn and Cagney's boxing credibility on screen, were the comments of Angelo Dundee, the long time fight manager of, among others, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. Dundee was one of the great insiders of the fight game who, among other things, forced a young Cassius Clay to continue fighting after Clay said he was ready to quit during the first Liston fight after a stinging substance got into his eyes and he was temporarily blinded and confused. If it wasn't for Dundee, Clay/Ali would not have become champion that night.

 

I found Dundee's comments about Flynn's fight scenes in Gentleman Jim to be illuminating. "My God," he said of Flynn's boxing style, "there's so much talent there it's scary. I would have wanted to manage that guy."

 

 

 

Yea,  it was Dundee  and not a boxing promoter.   Yea,  his comments were great as it related to Flynn but not so much Cagney.  I don't know if I fault Cagney as much as the director and just the way 30's programmers were filmed (as in cheap looking in many cases).      One can see that the studio took more time and effort to film the fight scenes in Gentleman Jim than in that Cagney movie. 

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GENTLEMAN JIM is one of my favorite Flynn films and one of my favorite Raoul Walsh films.  The scene where Ward Bond as Sullivan interrupts Corbett's party to present Jim with the trophy is one of the finest examples of economy in writing, direction and acting.  Simply brilliant.

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GENTLEMAN JIM is one of my favorite Flynn films and one of my favorite Raoul Walsh films.  The scene where Ward Bond as Sullivan interrupts Corbett's party to present Jim with the trophy is one of the finest examples of economy in writing, direction and acting.  Simply brilliant.

You're right, Ray.

 

It's a wonderful moment of sentiment that never veers into the mawkish. It was director Walsh's tribute to the roughneck pugilists of John L. Sullivan's era now being eclipsed by the revolution brought to the boxing game by a boxing dandy like Gentleman Jim.

 

Ward Bond, as Sullivan, plays the scene with a dignity that brings a lump to the throat. He's hurting emotionally but his pride is still intact. Flynn brings a quiet sensitivity to the scene, his cockiness replaced by respect for his opponent.

 

The scene is sweet and sentimental but admirably restrained. Two ring warriors taking a moment to pay their respects to one another. Raoul Walsh, who claimed he met the real Sullivan and Corbett as a boy, was particularly proud of this scene, as he wrote about it in his autobiography.

 

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Touching as this scene is, there is no historical basis for it, by the way. The real Sullivan and Corbett couldn't stand one another any more after their fight than before it. It was only 18 years after their 1892 contest that they briefly shook hands, and even then, they only did so when the news cameras were rolling to capture the moment.

 

By that time, Sullivan had the appearance of a beer barrel, while Gentleman Jim Corbett still looked good. But then, Corbett actually made far more money throughout his life as a stage actor than he ever did in the ring.

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This is my favorite Flynn film.  It's a great story, it's different than the usual Flynn roles and Errol seemed like he was having fun making it.  Alan Hale was hilarious as his dad-- "GIVE HIM ROOM." 

 

The scene that another poster mentioned between Ward Bond and Flynn at the party was very touching. 

 

My favorite part is when he and Jack Carson are in Salt Lake City after an all night bender and Flynn unknowingly and drunkenly signs a contract with William Frawley to be his boxing promoter.  Frawley gets Flynn a match in Salt Lake City and he fights, hungover and has a huge black eye and fat lip; but somehow bounces back and wins the match. 

 

Finally, when I first saw this film, I did a fair amount of swooning as well.  I think Flynn was at the peak of his attractiveness in this film.  The man could fill out a top hat and tails just as well as he could boxing shorts. 

 

I wish I hadn't missed this special :(

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I found Dundee's comments about Flynn's fight scenes in Gentleman Jim to be illuminating. "My God," he said of Flynn's boxing style, "there's so much talent there it's scary.

 

Flynn had natural talent in everything he tried. It reinforces my thinking that "talent" is just the physical appearance of intelligence. He observed, he learned and then performed. Brilliantly. I think Flynn most likely had a very high IQ.

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I found Dundee's comments about Flynn's fight scenes in Gentleman Jim to be illuminating. "My God," he said of Flynn's boxing style, "there's so much talent there it's scary.

 

Flynn had natural talent in everything he tried. It reinforces my thinking that "talent" is just the physical appearance of intelligence. He observed, he learned and then performed. Brilliantly. I think Flynn most likely had a very high IQ.

Many people who knew Flynn commented upon his high intelligence. He was a largely self educated man who developed a love of reading and literature during his early years as a young man while living in New Guinea. The stimulation that reading provided his mind was an antidote for the monotony of his existence at that time. Flynn would be a passionate reader his entire life, and he was also, of course, the author of three books. He wanted to be a writer more than he did an actor, but there were too many distractions for him in Hollywood and he lacked the proper discipline to develop his natural talent even further. Anyone reading My Wicked Wicked Ways, however, even though he was assisted by a ghost writer, can see his clever usage of words and wit in abundant display.

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In many respects, Gentleman Jim can be seen as director Raoul Walsh’s companion piece to The Strawberry Blonde, which he had helmed the previous year at Warners. Both films have turn-of-the-century settings, and even a couple of the same cast members, Jack Carson and Alan Hale, the latter cast as the father of both films’ chief protagonists.

 

But while Strawberry Blonde’s Gay 90s setting is treated as a sentimentally quaint rose coloured reflection of its time, Gentleman Jim uses its cobblestone streets and period clothes as an atmospheric backdrop to the true story of an ambitious bank clerk seeking the excitement of a career in the boxing ring at a time when boxing was an outlawed sport.

 

The film’s historical accuracy is, of course, severely compromised at times in the name of the film’s entertainment value. And entertaining Gentleman Jim most certainly is. Walsh brings a zestful energy to this production, along with a light hearted approach chock-full of blarney Irish humour. If the stereotyping of the Irish (and the Corbett family, in particular) is less than subtle, it is still presented with a warmth and affection that adds to the film’s charm, in my opinion.

 

And central to the success of this, one of the most engaging of all Walsh films, is the perfect casting of Errol Flynn in the title role. This was a genuine peak in the actor’s career, the role of James J. Corbett his personal favourite. Flynn delivers a completely winning performance,  a most satisfactory blend of high energy, aggressive charm and light heartedness.

 

That light heartedness is key since this unpretentious production couldn’t be more of a contrast to the rather heavy handed treatments that Warners had earlier adopted to their ‘30s series of biographies starring Paul Muni. Because Muni was considered to be a “serious” actor, while Flynn was not, Gentleman Jim benefits tremendously because this is a film which, while exciting in the boxing scenes created, never stops in its fast pacing by Walsh to ever take itself too seriously.

 

The result is simply one of the most rambunctious and upbeat films produced by Warners during the studio era, a film whose high spirits and infectious good humour leave its audience feeling exhilarated at the end.

 

Aside from Flynn, the rest of the cast also look like they’re having a ball, as well. Alexis Smith scores well in the role of a fictitious society lady with whom Corbett has an antagonistic sexual chemistry, while Alan Hale is a riot as Corbett’s laughing, extroverted father.

 

One of the ongoing jokes of the film is that Corbett and his brothers are all so hot blooded in their Irish temperament that they can’t help themselves from getting into fights with one another. “The Corbetts are at it again,” becomes a rallying cry for all neighbours as they frequently rush over to the Corbett’s place to see the latest fight about to take place between the brothers.

 

A highlight performance in the supporting cast is that of Ward Bond as heavyweight champ John L. Sullivan, whose proudest boast is “I can lick any man in the world.” Bond brings a boastful machismo strut to his role, which, coupled with his hard drinking, makes this a memorable characterization.  Bond is also allowed a scene of sensitivity and sentimentality at the end of the film that is unexpectedly touching, and one of the film’s highlight moments. Sullivan was one of the outstanding characterizations in this long time Hollywood veteran’s career.

 

If I had to select one scene in this film that is my favourite it would be the boxing contest on the barge. This is around the middle of the production, an atmospheric presentation of a rowdy crowd of spectators watching an illegal fight, the potential threat of a police raid hanging over the event.

 

Walsh, renowned for his staging of action scenes, is in peak form in this fast moving, beautifully edited sequence, full of rowdy humour, with both participants repeatedly knocking each other down, at one moment one of them flying through the ropes of the ring into the water. Walsh had humourous cutaway shots from the ring to the spectators, with Corbett’s father and brothers cheering him on, while at the same time throwing punches of their own at invisible opponents.

 

Flynn got himself into top physical condition for the boxing scenes, and he is more than credible in the ring, with few signs of the actor being doubled. However, during the staging of the film’s climactic contest between Corbett and Sullivan, Flynn did suffer a mild heart attack. It was a forewarning of what would fatally reoccur for the actor 17 years after this film was made.

 

In the final analysis, Gentleman Jim is simply a really fun film. It has an exuberance that I think represents the best of Raoul Walsh as a filmmaker, with a star in the lead whose physical conditioning and engaging charm in the title role would be difficult, if not impossible, for any other actor to match.

 

For sheer entertainment value, I would take Gentleman Jim any day over some of the more famous and celebrated films made in the same year, 1942. Whatever.  If you watch this film, I think you are guaranteed to have a rollicking good time.

 

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TomJH,

 

I loved your assessment of Gentleman Jim.  You stated my thoughts on this completely.  This role was made for Errol Flynn.  I cannot imagine anyone else who could bring the athleticism, the charisma, and everything else Flynn had which was needed for this role.  In my opinion, Flynn was probably one of the few male actors who actually took attention off of the leading lady.  Many actresses could have been cast in the Alexis Smith role and I don't think it would have impacted the film greatly; however, remove Flynn, and the film would be nothing. 

 

I have to concur on yours and TikiSoo's opinion on Flynn's intelligence.  He seemed to be so naturally good at everything, acting, writing, boxing, tennis... I've even read that he was an excellent cook and diver.  I've read that sports-wise, Flynn's athleticism was so good that he could have been an Olympic-level boxer, diver and tennis player.  When I read his autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, while I knew that he had a ghostwriter, his voice came through loud and clear in the writing.  His vocabulary is very extensive.  I found myself looking up some of his words in a dictionary to see what he was talking about.  In his book, he discusses many books and authors that he enjoyed and admired-- and these sounded like pretty "heavy" books; no pulp fiction or Harlequin romances for Flynn!

 

In comparison with most of the "big" films of 1942, I would take Gentleman Jim any day.  It's got everything: sports, romance, comedy, great costumes, drama... the list goes on.  Alan Hale was hilarious and Ward Bond was excellent too.  It's a shame that Errol Flynn was just seen as a "pretty boy," because I think this film and many of the other films he made with Raoul Walsh, show that he was a good actor, a natural actor.  Often times, those stars who take acting very seriously, or the ones who are "classically trained" (Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, just to name a few) are very off-putting, because they seem like they're trying so hard to emote.  It makes them very unnatural and seem like they're overacting.  Flynn on the other hand, always seemed more like a "real" person and to me, it was much more convincing. 

 

I'm so glad that Flynn was able to work so extensively with Raoul Walsh.  While I enjoy his collaborations with Michael Curtiz, I think Flynn's work with Walsh is much more interesting.

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TomJH,

 

1.Many actresses could have been cast in the Alexis Smith role and I don't think it would have impacted the film greatly; however, remove Flynn, and the film would be nothing. 

 

2.In comparison with most of the "big" films of 1942, I would take Gentleman Jim any day.  It's got everything: sports, romance, comedy, great costumes, drama... the list goes on.  Alan Hale was hilarious and Ward Bond was excellent too.  It's a shame that Errol Flynn was just seen as a "pretty boy," because I think this film and many of the other films he made with Raoul Walsh, show that he was a good actor, a natural actor. 

 

3.I'm so glad that Flynn was able to work so extensively with Raoul Walsh.  While I enjoy his collaborations with Michael Curtiz, I think Flynn's work with Walsh is much more interesting.

1. I agree with your comment, speedracer, but want to say that I think that Alexis Smith and Flynn played very well off each other, and she has to be ranked as one of his best leading ladies (not only because of Gentleman Jim, but due to San Antonio and even Montana, to a degree).

 

2. I love Gentleman Jim and am, quite frankly, disappointed that there haven't been more comments on this thread expressing enthusiasm for this joyous film. Flynn was a very natural actor, as opposed to some others, often stage trained, in which you can always see the wheels turning. Acting came far easier to Flynn than did writing, which he had to really work at.

 

3. Flynn had no more productive work as an actor, in my opinion, than with Raoul Walsh (even if most of his most famous films were with Michael Curtiz).

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1. I agree with your comment, speedracer, but want to say that I think that Alexis Smith and Flynn played very well off each other, and she has to be ranked as one of his best leading ladies (not only because of Gentleman Jim, but due to San Antonio and even Montana, to a degree).

 

2. I love Gentleman Jim and am, quite frankly, disappointed that there haven't been more comments on this thread expressing enthusiasm for this joyous film. Flynn was a very natural actor, as opposed to some others, often stage trained, in which you can always see the wheels turning. Acting came far easier to Flynn than did writing, which he had to really work at.

 

3. Flynn had no more productive work as an actor, in my opinion, than with Raoul Walsh (even if most of his most famous films were with Michael Curtiz).

 

I'm interested in how you would rank Flynn leading ladies.    I believe that after DeHaviland (to me the best),  Flynn made movies with a host of leading ladies but not that many repeat performances  (therefore it isn't easy to judge who was 'best' based on one performance).      I could be wrong but it appears to me that he worked with Alexis Simth more than anyone other than Olivia.

 

Anyhow,  I agree that Flynn and Alexis work very well together. e.g. In Montana they are great fighting and loving (often at the same time!).   Yea,  the ending was a typically Hollywood ending.    Of course we knew they would end up together but winning a man by shooting him,  isn't something I would look forward to.   ;)

 

As you know Flynn starred with Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck (one film?),  and they are my two favorite actresses.  The Davis films were more serious efforts.    I don't know if they really work that great as a team,  but Flynn's acting was elevated to a higher level in those Davis pictures.

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I'm interested in how you would rank Flynn leading ladies.    I believe that after DeHaviland (to me the best),  Flynn made movies with a host of leading ladies but not that many repeat performances  (therefore it isn't easy to judge how was 'best' based on one performance).      I could be wrong but it appears to me that he work with Alexis Simth more than anyone other than Olivia.

 

Anyhow,  I agree that Flynn and Alexis work very well together. e.g. In Montana they are great fighting and loving (often at the same time!).   Yea,  the ending was a typically Hollywood ending.    Of course we knew they would end up together but winning a man by shooting him,  isn't something I would look forward to.   ;)

 

As you know Flynn starred with Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck (one film?),  and they are my two favorite actresses.  The Davis films were more serious efforts.    I don't know if they really work that great as a team,  but Flynn's acting was elevated to a higher level in those Davis pictures.

Well, James, I would say that Flynn had at least four leading ladies with whom the sparks really flew.

 

Oliva, of course, is the one with whom he is best remembered, and deservedly so. At their best, as a screen team, in Robin Hood and even their first collaboration together, Captain Blood, they brought a fairy tale quality to the screen. Having said that, my favourite pairing of the them is in their last film together, They Died With Their Boots On.

 

I think there is somewhat more substance to De Havilland's opportunities as an actress here, while Flynn is at a real peak moment in his career as Custer. Their early courtship scenes in this film are truly charming, including that humorous balcony scene in which Hattie McDaniel is watching out below for her father, ready to hoot like an owl to give warning.

 

But it's their farewell scene together, as Custer is about to depart for the Little Big Horn, in which I think they truly achieve a moment of screen greatness. Flynn and Olivia are both highly effective as they play this tender scene with admirable restraint. She looks like a pale mask, afraid at times to even meet the gaze of his eyes for fear of betraying her feelings that they will never see one another again. There are shadows playing over Flynn's face, a foreboding of his character's death, as he plays this scene with dignity but also a profound sensitivity towards Olivia. Flynn is both gentle and chivalrous in this scene, and when they embrace for the final time Max Steiner's rhapsodic string-l a d e n music score surges across the soundtrack to emotionally enhance the performances of the two players (and to assure that there's not a dry eye in the house).

 

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This is probably my favourite Errol Flynn scene of his film career.

 

As for Flynn's other leading ladies, I would go with Ann Sheridan (great chemistry, particularly in Silver River) and Alexis Smith. A fourth leading lady with whom Errol only worked once, but I thought they were terrific together: Viveca Lindfors in Adventures of Don Juan. She brings an intelligence to her portrayal of a woman who has never known love, while Flynn is highly effective as a world weary cynic who develops feelings of respect and admiration for her, starting to view her apart from all the other many women he has known. Their final departure scene (also enhanced memorably by Steiner music) has a far greater feeling of depth of emotion on both actors' parts than you usually find in costume adventures of this nature.

 

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I didn't watch Gentleman Jim but after reading the Posts, will make sure I do next time.

Two thoughts, don't forget Flynn working with Eleanor Parker in Never Say Goodbye. Not a great film, but a light sophisticated comedy, kind of fun and comedy not necessarily something either one was known for. Second, I saw that it was Alexis Smith day and went down the list and I hate to say it, and I like Alexis Smith, but I don't think her movies were all that good, perhaps Gentleman Jim excluded. But it was just another example of Warner Brothers really not knowing what to do with these leading ladies. Alexis came back like a tornado in the original production of Follies on the NY stage.

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I didn't watch Gentleman Jim but after reading the Posts, will make sure I do next time.

Two thoughts, don't forget Flynn working with Eleanor Parker in Never Say Goodbye. Not a great film, but a light sophisticated comedy, kind of fun and comedy not necessarily something either one was known for. Second, I saw that it was Alexis Smith day and went down the list and I hate to say it, and I like Alexis Smith, but I don't think her movies were all that good, perhaps Gentleman Jim excluded. But it was just another example of Warner Brothers really not knowing what to do with these leading ladies and Alexis came back with like a tornado in the original production of Follies on the NY stage.

 

Warner Brothers clearly featured their male stars and built high quality films around them more so then any of the actresses they had under contact other then Bette Davis and Joan Crawford once she joined and Bette's days were numbered.

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I saw that it was Alexis Smith day and went down the list and I hate to say it, and I like Alexis Smith, but I don't think her movies were all that good, perhaps Gentleman Jim excluded. But it was just another example of Warner Brothers really not knowing what to do with these leading ladies. Alexis came back like a tornado in the original production of Follies on the NY stage.

I agree. For the most part, Alexis Smith's films at Warners were not very impressive. However, she did make a small number of films for the studio that I do like: Adventures of Mark Twain, with Frederic March (though Smith herself is not very good in it), Rhapsody in Blue (typical Warners casting of Smith as a "high society" type) and San Antonio, a predictable but colourful western, with Flynn.

 

But Gentleman Jim is, for my money, easily Smith's best film during her Warners years, a film in which she is cast as "the girl" in a male star vehicle.

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...Adventures of Mark Twain, with Frederic March...

 

 

(...sorry Tom, I just can't resist...) ;)

 

So Tom, did you ever work on the crew of "What My Line"? Like maybe the guy in charge of making the name plates for the mystery guests???

 

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(...sorry Tom, I just can't resist...) ;)

 

So Tom, did you ever work on the crew of "What My Line"? Like maybe the guy in charge of making the name plates for the mystery guests???

 

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No, but I should have. I'm a GRATE speller. ;)

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No, but I should have. I'm a GRATE speller. ;)

 

LOL

 

Well, I suppose with you bein' a Canadian and all, and how you guys up that-a-way always tend to add that 'superfluous u' to some words, I guess I can see how you might also tend to add that there 'superfluous e' to Fredric's name here. ;)

 

(...okay, and now back to Gentleman Jim...sorry for the interruption)

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I didn't watch Gentleman Jim but after reading the Posts, will make sure I do next time.

Two thoughts, don't forget Flynn working with Eleanor Parker in Never Say Goodbye. Not a great film, but a light sophisticated comedy, kind of fun and comedy not necessarily something either one was known for. Second, I saw that it was Alexis Smith day and went down the list and I hate to say it, and I like Alexis Smith, but I don't think her movies were all that good, perhaps Gentleman Jim excluded. But it was just another example of Warner Brothers really not knowing what to do with these leading ladies. Alexis came back like a tornado in the original production of Follies on the NY stage.

I really liked Never Say Goodbye.  I agree that it's not Flynn or Parker's greatest film; but I think they make a great screen pair and a very attractive looking couple.  Errol was his usual charming self and it was nice to see him in a somewhat different type of role.  I can't think of many other Flynn films where he plays a parent.  I'm not big on kids or kid actors; but I enjoyed his interaction with the little girl playing his daughter.  It was nice to see this softer side come out.  I thought his somewhat slapstick routines with Forrest Tucker were funny and they definitely showed how adept he was at comedy.  Plus, this film had S.Z. Sakall who I think is hilarious.  This was a great addition to my film collection via the Warner Brothers Archives.

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1. I agree with your comment, speedracer, but want to say that I think that Alexis Smith and Flynn played very well off each other, and she has to be ranked as one of his best leading ladies (not only because of Gentleman Jim, but due to San Antonio and even Montana, to a degree).

 

2. I love Gentleman Jim and am, quite frankly, disappointed that there haven't been more comments on this thread expressing enthusiasm for this joyous film. Flynn was a very natural actor, as opposed to some others, often stage trained, in which you can always see the wheels turning. Acting came far easier to Flynn than did writing, which he had to really work at.

 

3. Flynn had no more productive work as an actor, in my opinion, than with Raoul Walsh (even if most of his most famous films were with Michael Curtiz).

I do agree that Alexis Smith and Flynn made a good team-- I liked that she often played strong-willed ladies who didn't immediately swoon when Flynn flashed a smile or said a smooth line or what not.  She made him work for the eventual relationship; I guess the point I was trying to make was that I didn't think she was as integral to Gentleman Jim as Flynn was; however, I do think that her character's persona was important to the film.  Casting an actress known for being a sweetheart or the girl next door type would not have worked in my opinion.  Another actress who could have filled Smith's shoes I think could have been Ann Sheridan.  I would also say perhaps Ida Lupino; however I haven't seen Escape Me Never, so I cannot comment for sure.

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