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The story of James Braddock, a supposedly washed-up boxer who came back to become a champion and an inspiration in the 1930s.
Jim Braddock: I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them.
Mae Braddock: Maybe I understand, some, about having to fight. So you just remember who you are... you're the Bulldog of Bergen, and the Pride of New Jersey, you're everybody's hope, and the kids' hero, and you are the champion of my heart, James J. Braddock.
Jim Braddock: Max, my wife Mae. Max Baer: You are far too pretty to be a widow. Jim Braddock: That's not nice, Max. Not nice. Come on. [starts to leave] Max Baer: On second thought, maybe I can comfort you after he's gone. Joe Gould: Hey, I said shut your goddamn mouth, you punk! Mae Braddock: [Mae throws her drink in Max's face] Jim Braddock: Sorry. Send me the cleaning bill. Max Baer: Get that boys? Now he's got his wife doing his fighting for him! Jim Braddock: Yeah. [pause] Jim Braddock: Ain't she something?
Jim Braddock: What're ya doin'? Howard Braddock: Nothin'. I'm bein' good. I'm bein' quiet. I'm bein' "hayved"
Joe Gould: Jesus H. Christ! Jesus Mary and Joseph! All the saints and martyrs and Jesus! Did I mention Jesus?
Sporty Lewis: Is that a ghost I'm seeing? An apparition? Or is it James J. Braddock the Bulldog of Burgen? Jim Braddock: Sporty Lewis, how ya doing?
Howard Braddock: Dad, I'm being quiet, I'm being good, I'm being-have!
[Mae enters a church on the day of her husband's big fight with Max Baer] Mae Braddock: I came to pray for Jim. Father Rorick: So did they. [camera pans around to reveal that the church is almost completely filled with people]
Jim Braddock: You think you're telling me something? Like, what, boxing is dangerous, something like that? You don't think working triple shifts and at night on a scaffold isn't just as likely to get a man killed? What about all those guys who died last week living in cardboard shacks to save on rent money just to feed their family, 'cause guys like you have not quite figured out a way yet to make money off of watching that guy die? But in my profession - and it is my profession - I'm a little more fortunate.
Jim Braddock: For two hundred and fifty dollars I would fight your wife! Joe Gould: Now you're dreaming Jim Braddock: ...and your grandmother, at the same time. Joe Gould: Teeth in or teeth out? Jim Braddock: Take 'em out! Joe Gould: Then you're dead, you're down, you're gone, no chance! Jim Braddock: Two hundred and fifty bucks? Joe Gould: Two hundred and fifty bananas! Jim Braddock: [rushes to hug him] Joey!
Mae Braddock: Every time you get hit, feels like I'm getting' hit too.
Joe Gould: You gonna punch him or pork him? Max Baer: That's your job, assho... [Braddock punches Baer]
Jimmy Johnston: Right here. Editorial says this fight is good as murder, and everybody associated with it should be hauled into court and prosecuted afterwords. They say the paper's gettin' all sorts of letters from people saying you're their inspiration - like you saved their lives or somethin'. If you ask me, it's a lotta crap... but if I'm gonna promote this fight, I'm not gettin' hung out to dry if somethin' happens to you. Joe Gould: [sarcastically] Ah, you're all heart. Jimmy Johnston: My heart's for my family, Joe, my brains and my balls are for business and this is business. You got me? Joe Gould: Gotcha.
Jim Braddock: You drove all the way out here to talk about the weather? Joe Gould: Maybe I was in the neighborhood! Did you ever think of that? A little fresh air! Jim Braddock: Hey Joe, this is Jersey. Joe Gould: Good point... yeah [chuckles] Joe Gould: good point... I got you a fight.
Reporter: Bob Johnson, Boston Globe. Two days ago, we ran a story about you giving your relief money back. Can you tell our readers why? Jim Braddock: I believe we live in a great country, a country that's great enough to help a man financially when he's in trouble. But lately, I've had some good fortune, and I'm back in the black. And I just thought I should return it.
[last title cards] Title card: Two years later Jim Braddock put his title on the line against Joe Louis. Jim knocked him down in the first round though Louis went on to win the bout. Joe Louis would always call Jim Braddock the most courageous man he ever fought. Title card: Jim served honorably in World War II. Title card: He later owned and operated heavy equipment on the same docks where he labored during the Great Depression. Title card: In the early 1960's he helped build the Verrazano Bridge. Title card: Jim and Mae bought a house in New Jersey with the winnings from the Baer fight. They raised their children in that house and lived there for the rest of their lives.
[first title card] Title card: "In all the history of the boxing game you find no human interest story to compare with the life narrative of James J. Braddock..." - Damon Runyon
Jim Braddock: [to his former business partners] the thing is I can't afford to pay the heat and I had send my kids to live with relatives, they keep cutting shifts down at the dock, you just don't get picked every day, I sold everything I got to anybody who would buy, I went on public assistance at the relief office, they gave me nineteen dollars, I need another eighteen dollars and thirty eight cents so I can pay the heating bill and get the kids back, you all know me well enough to know, if I had anywhere else to go I wouldn't be here, if you could help me through this time I would surely be grateful
Joe Gould: I got you another fight Jim Braddock: Ha ha, go to hell.
Max Baer: [to Braddock after a boxing round] You're going home in butcher paper, pal! BUTCHER PAPER!
Joe Gould: You're all heart. Jimmy Johnston: My heart is for my family. My brains and my balls are for business.
Max Baer: It's no joke, pal. People die in fairy tales all the time.
Jimmy Johnston: [to Gould] They ought to put your mouth in a circus.
Joe Gould: [Between rounds] You gotta stop some of those lefts! Jim Braddock: You see any gettin' past my head?
Mike Wilson: Screw FDR, Hoover, they're all the same, I come home one day I'm standing in my living room, and between the mortgage and the market and the God damn lawyer that was supposed to be working for me, it stopped being mine, it all stopped being mine, FDR isn't give me my house back yet