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Cinderella Man Film Essay

Cinderella Man is a film about The Great Depression. How is this period in history depicted in the film? The film Cinderella Man is based on a true story about a boxer James J Braddock, during the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Braddock, his wife Mae and his three kids were very well off, due to the fact that Braddock was doing very well with his boxing and winning lots of fights, which resulted in lots of money. This all changed very suddenly when Braddock’s career was turned upside down when the Great Depression hit.

The first scene in the film which shows that times were starting to get tough is when there is a transition scene from 1928-1932, where there is a slow left pan fade starting from their dresser with lots of accessories such as jewellery, a photo in a nice frame, a watch and a stack of money which Braddock earned from winning a fight that night, and the pan ends with a shot of their dresser during the great depression which is clearly much less accessorised with very little jewellery, a razor, a false tooth and the same photo but without the frame. As Braddock and his family were very well off before the great depression this scene really illustrated how tough the times were and there were many people much worse off than Braddock’s family.

Another scene in the film that portrayed the period of the Great Depression was the scene when Braddock went to the Docks to work. Each day unemployed men would wait at the gate and hope to get picked to work on the docks that day. This scene gives you as a viewer a sense of truth about the movie and when the men are stretching out their arms through the bars it demonstrates how desperate people are getting. After it shows the men begging to get picked to work it switches to a close up shot of a newspaper getting dropped on the ground with the title “unemployed hits record 15 million”. The close up shot of the newspaper really emphasises that the film is during the great depression, and nearly everyone is unemployed; and this shot works perfectly in depicting this point in time. The next scene which indicates the film is during the great depression I personally think is the most effective. Jim and Mae are so low on money that they can’t afford to keep their three children, one who is sick at home and Mae sends them off without telling Jim and this leads to them fighting.

After this is changes to a high angle close up on the EMERGENCY RELIEF ADMINISTRATION OF NEW JERSEY and hundreds of people filling out welfare application forms. The camera then pans to Braddock when it is his turn and the woman at the counter says to Braddock- “I never thought I’d see you here Jim”. When the woman at the counter says this to Braddock it makes me as a viewer think that if Braddock is associated with wealth and he has lost everything, then what does the average person have left? As many other scenes in the film, this one really proves that the film is during the great depression and thousands and thousands of people are hardly surviving. The last scene I am going to talk about which represents the time of the great depression is probably the most effective in getting the message across that the film is during the great depression, and this scene is in Hooverville which is a place where lots of little shanty’s were built by homeless people during the great depression.

This scene in the film is very loud and gruesome, with sounds such as police sirens, breaking glass, people yelling and people vomiting. The camera shows lots of people running around, bodies on the ground and small fires everywhere. This scene uses a hand held camera to emphasise the franticness of the people, and shows the occasional close up of individual’s faces to show that they are scared. Immediately after it shows a close up of Mike’s face when he says ‘tell Sarah I’ll be late.’ it flashes straight to a close up of a coffin with a number on it and then another close up on Mae’s grief stricken face.

Because mikes coffin only has a number on it, it shows that NO one could afford a personalised coffin and all these people to the government were simply just numbers. At a glance this film is just about boxing, but as you watch it you learn that there is a deeper meaning to the film, and shows the story of one man, who went from having everything to nothing, and then struggled his way through the great depression, and in Braddock’s words he ‘was fighting for milk.’


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