"THAT ONE'S FOR HITLER" is what Max Baer snarled in his 1933 bout with German boxer Max Schmeling. During that match, and in every match thereafter, Baer wore a Star of David on his trunks. Although raised Catholic, Baer had a Jewish father and, not surprisingly, became a hero to Jews around the world. Baer held the world title for 364 days, from June 13, 1934 until June 12, 1935, when he lost the belt to James J. Braddock, recently made famous by the Hollywood version of his life, Cinderella Man. In the film, Baer is a bloodthirsty hedonist, who attempts to intimidate Braddock by reminding him of how two of Baer's opponents died in the ring. According to film critic David Fellenrath, this portrayal is patently unfair. Although the real life Baer did kill one of his opponents in the ring, he was wracked by guilt thereafter. After the death, Baer went on to lose four of his next six fights and have recurrent nightmares. He also donated some of his winning's to the family of his fallen opponent and later on put his children through college. Mercifully, Cindrella Man never mentions that Baer was a Jewish icon. According to Fellenrath, the careful viewer can spot the Star of David on Baer's trunks, although I didn't notice it while watching the film this evening. In contrast, the Star on Baer's actual trunks was quite noticeable (see above). Although far from bloodthirsty, Baer's was actually a hedonist who didn't take Braddock seriously and barely trained for the fight. According to Baer's son, he even had one of his mistresses pleasure him before the fight -- an apt prelude to Baer's very successful career in show business both during and after his time as a professional fighter. Although it's very hard not to enjoy Cinderella Man, there is a good case to be made that Max Baer should have his own movie. (And so should Max Schmeling, who never wanted to be a Nazi icon and even hid two Jewish boys in his hotel room during Kristallnacht, after which they emigrated to America.)
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Cinderella man vs. The Jewish Icon
Interesting piece from David Adesnik that just goes to show that sometimes there aren't any good guys and bad guys, just regular folk trying to do good.