It is rare that Hollywood produces a movie that depicts the real essence of fatherhood. Either the man is portrayed as an irresponsible Peter Pan-ish sexual predator or an emotionally distant self absorbed tycoon or a milquetoast manipulated and controlled by dominate liberated females. When it comes to provided role models of true godly masculinity, Hollywood hasn’t a clue.
However, director Ron Howard, the matured “Oppie” of Mayberry days isn’t your typical Hollywood director. His latest offering, “The Cinderella Man” the adaptation of Michael C. Delisa’s book by the same title, is a masterful look at the powerful masculine role of true loving servanthood.
James J. Braddock was a professional boxer in the 1920’s and 30’s whose miraculous comeback won him the 1935 World Heavyweight Championship against Max Baer, a tougher, well-trained undefeated opponent.
At the beginning of the movie Braddock has just returned from a winning a fight to his comfortable home in New Jersey. He is embraced by his loving wife and they enjoy the playful banter of a young couple passionately in love and enjoying the good life. That was 1928. Within two years, Braddock lost every material blessing he had literally fought to purchase.
It is at this point, his true manhood is exemplified. Despite the overwhelming obstacles, Braddock is determined to keep his family together. He scraps and scratches out a living doing whatever menial work he can find. He never complains or asks for charity. His devotion to his duty as a husband and father motivate him, always believing if he just gets back, his luck will change.
Although the movie only dusts the edges of their faith, it is apparent that Mae Braddock was a woman of passionate prayer. Her confidence in her role as a woman once again confirms the adage that behind every successful man; is a woman. Her undying belief in him, always give Braddock the confidence to press on – just one more time.
Unfortunately, his best efforts fall short. When the power is turned off and the children are freezing Mae takes the children to family members while Braddock is away looking for work. Devastated that Mae has broken up the family and broken his promise to the kids, Braddock, totally humiliated asks for public relief and reunites the family.
Joe Gould, his former manager, recognized Braddock’s determined spirit, a characteristic they share. Through some unbelievable negotiating and a series of fortunate events, Gould arranges Braddock a fight with John "Corn" Griffin. Over-aged, under-trained and malnourished, Braddock lands a knock-out punch into Griffin in the third round and the legend begins. When asked what his motivation was, he smiles to the reporters with one word – milk! He was so tired of seeing Mae water down quarts of milk to insure his kids had some, that nothing else mattered.
When his life transformed, the first thing Braddock did was pay off all debts. He returned to the welfare office and paid back all the money he had “borrowed” from the government. No sense of “entitlement” here!
Braddock purchased a home for his family in North Bergen, NJ. They lived there while he served during World War II on the island of Siapan. After the war he worked in construction and helped build the Verrazano Bridge. He was a marine equipment supplier, running generators and welding equipment. He was a shining example of true fatherhood and what makes America great.
Today society is trying to force men into all kinds of crazy molds and real fatherhood is mocked as weakness. However, the most powerful examples of God’s character in Scripture are often found in His representation as our heavenly Father. The Cinderella Man is a vivid picture of the heart of a true father.
Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, married Katharina Von Bora out of obligation, but years later he wrote, “To have peace and love in a marriage is a gift that is next to the knowledge of the Gospel.” And of fatherhood he said, “The father ever learns from his experience of hanging out the nappies to the amusement of his neighbors. Let them laugh, God and the angels smile in heaven.” Martin Luther – the great reformer – hanging out diapers! As Luther himself said, “Love begins when we wish to serve others.”
Real father – real servant!
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