Gentleman Jim. 1940. USA. Directed by Raoul Walsh. Screenplay by Vincent Lawrence, Horace McCoy. With Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, William Frawley, Ward Bond. 35mm. 104 min.
The finest of the Errol Flynn/Raoul Walsh collaborations is possibly the purest expression of the Walshian ethos: a celebration of movement, freedom, and constantly becoming. Based on the 1894 autobiography of the heavyweight boxing champion James L. Corbett, the film takes mobility as its subject and metaphor, as young Jim, a bank teller with an extra dose of energy, bluffs his way into San Francisco society and the heart of an heiress (Alexis Smith) as his career as a “scientific boxer” expands to a national scale. And lest the film fall into easy triumphalism, Walsh builds to a magnificent climax (his most Fordian moment?) in which the spotlight shifts from the new champion to the worthy man he has just defeated (Ward Bond, as John L. Sullivan).