Cinderella Man proves to be a great secondary source. The movie is set in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Director Ron Howard focused on showing the effects of the Great Depression on businesses, families, and the toll it took on individuals. Braddock and his wife, Mae, often discuss different companies that are no longer in business, and they even feel the effects the economic downfall had on Braddock’s career and their family.
While the movie discusses boxing and the way it helps Braddock receive his second chance, it focuses more on Braddock’s fight against the depression. The movie accurately depicts the difficulty people had in finding day labor, in keeping their electricity and heat on for their kids, and even as detailed as adding water to milk to make more of it. According to the Journal of American History, “Braddock is in the fight of his life, but so is one-third of the nation…In dwelling on the details and evoking the ethos of the milieu, the filmmakers evince an almost scholarly commitment to the down-and-out side of the 1930s.”1
Different characters were used to express the various ways people handled the Great Depression. Russell Crowe, who was heavily involved in the making of this film, and Howard researched the times and boxing in the 1930s. As a secondary source, viewers are able to take away an accurate understanding of how rare it was to find a job, the likelihood of children being sent away to live with other family members. The movie was detailed and researched enough to even show the norms of the community as well, “A Catholic parish hosts a birthday party where the parents insert their children’s names into a birthday song, none being able to afford the luxury of a private cake.”2
The character of Mike, Braddock’s friend is based on several different people who were not as optimistic and trusting in the government as Braddock and Mae. Mike’s character represented the individuals that could not handle the financial instability and chose to deal with it through alcohol. Unfortunately, he ended up like many, dying at Hooverville trying to fight the cause. Braddock represented the individual who did nothing but make his family his priority.3 Cinderella man is a great secondary source by accurately giving viewers the emotion, atmosphere and panic of the 1930s.
While there were some inaccuracies, such as Mae and James did not have their first child until after 1930, whereas in the movie they had all three by 1930. Also, Max Baer had killed only one person in the gym and felt grievously apologetic for it. The majority of the movie is correct in terms of dates of matches, all the historical information about Boxing in 1930s.
- Thomas Doherty, “Cinderella Man,” Journal of American History (December 2005): 1096-1097.
- A.J. Liebling, The Sweet Science (New York: North Point Press: 41).