Pat O’Malley (June Allyson) is a second-generation fight promoter, taking the reigns from her father Sean (Lionel Barrymore). He was once the best promoter in the biz but has suffered some health complications, leaving his daughter to take over much of his work.
Along with the work, Pat has also found a bit of romance in the boxing world, striking up a relationship with her father’s best fighter, Johnny Monterez (Ricardo Montalban). Though she loves Johnny, Pat has some worries about him professionally after her father tells her that another promoter is trying to steal him away.
Meanwhile, Johnny also finds his friendship with sports reporter Rick (Dick Powell) compromised after the two pay a visit to Johnny’s family, revealing the boxer’s complicated attitude toward his Mexican heritage.
Right Cross was directed by John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven). The film was written by Charles Schnee (Red River).
Right Cross is a concisely-written, cleanly-told little tale of a boxer’s career and the behind-the-scenes politics of the sport. The viewer follows Johnny as he weighs the decision of whether or not to stay signed with Pat’s father, and as he deals with the consequences of his latest injury.
Though a generally well-constructed boxing flick, Right Cross would be forgettable but for a few interesting elements that push its plot beyond a simple portrayal of a boxer’s career. June Allyson’s character is one of these elements. She may be just about the only woman to appear on screen, but her role is a good one — a female sports promoter, taking over the family business, so to speak. She has a relationship with Johnny but isn’t a submissive wife-to-be. She speaks up for herself and is dedicated to her job and the people she loves.
In addition to having a somewhat out of the norm (for the ’50s) leading lady character, the film offers some exploration of Johnny’s feelings toward his family and his heritage. He has complicated feelings toward himself, his culture, and his position in society as a minority, in some ways trying to distance himself from the fact that he is Mexican and in some ways seeing himself as an “other” from the Pats and Ricks of society. (The attitudes of Pat and Rick toward him are even more telling, both accusing him of having “gringo conspiracy” theories, though I’m not sure the audiences of 1950 would have realized that these two close friends of Johnny were severely misunderstanding him.)
Right Cross isn’t a remarkable film, with its predictable ending and relatively low-stakes conflict, but a decent drama of sports and relationship dynamics. One final point of interest for old Hollywood fans — Marilyn Monroe makes a small appearance as Rick’s dinner date. The score: 2.5/5