Refusing to Stay Down – Iron Man (1951)

Jeff Chandler stars in Iron Man, a 1951 motion picture about a man who wants more out of life, but is unsure as to what that is. Working in a coal mine it seems is not the be-all end-all and while his girlfriend played by Evelyn Keyes would like to open a store of their own at some point, that dream seems very far away. After seeing Chandler fight in a boxing match, his brother who just so happens to be a gambler as well, wants to take a chance on Chandler as he believes that Chandler has what it takes to make a living at the sport. Chandler wants no part of it as during said match, he loses control and only sees red, but Stephen McNally who plays the brother, knows better and eventually, once Chandler gets a bigger taste for it, there is no turning back.

Iron Man might not be the best film there is on the subject, but it is at the very least a film that keeps the viewer’s attention and turns out to be a satisfying watch with Chandler being fairly magnetic as its lead. Also starring the aforementioned Keyes and McNally, it also features Rock Hudson in a minor role as a boxer and friend and the film goes on to find them supporting Chandler in a number of ways, but it all essentially goes unnoticed by the man until the end of the movie when he finally realises that fighting might not be all there is to live for. Chandler’s character Coke Mason is a fairly gloomy fellow, little of anything making him happy and it is almost as if he sabotages himself at every turn, perhaps thinking that in some way he does not deserve it. The crowds boo him incessantly, no matter how many times he wins and it starts wearing on the man until he can no longer do anything about it but lash out at those who are closest to him. Despite the man being fairly mopey and something of a gloomy Gus, Chandler brings Mason to vivid life and keeps the viewer interested for at some point; the audience knows that things will have to turn around for the man.

The film would not be all sunshine and roses though, with a couple of faults to be found, one of those being the characterisation of Rose as played by Keyes who was not as developed by the writers as she could have been. Though she plays a woman who supports her man no matter how bad things get, she also gambles all their money away on a fix – an action that does not seem to fit into that good girl persona that was originally envisioned. As for Chandler, he could have been depicted in the ring a little better, the man always hunched over like he had taken far too many shots to the gut. It was not as if the fights were boring, but they could have been a little more exciting to really draw the audience into the picture, to love or hate Coke Mason as much as the crowd did.

Like many a sports film, it all ends with a nice, neat bow – the fighter getting his happy ending after finally having a clean fight, getting the crowd on his side, gaining happiness and getting the girl. Iron Man could have been a lot better than it was, but it had the ingredients needed as familiar as they were, to make for an engaging experience.

3 out of 5

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