Golden Boy (1939)
William Holden’s breakout performance was in this drama about a New York violinist who gets drawn into the boxing ring much to his father’s dismay. His fighting takes him all the way to Madison Square Garden under the guidance of a shady mobster, where bitterness about his life choices leads to a tragic outcome.
Golden Boy features adequate performances from Holden and love interest Barbara Stanwyck. Lee J. Cobb has some tender moments as Holden’s father — and some overwrought ones as well. Adolph Menjou gets to show his uglier side as Holden’s first manager and a romantic foil competing for Stanwyck’s affection. The film is a little slow going at first, but once Stanwyck’s character joins Holden’s father in dissuading him from the boxing ring, a salient and compelling theme emerges — fighting against our nature can make us monsters. With Joseph Calleia and Sam Levene. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian.
Oscar Nomination: Best Score (Victor Young)