‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Max Baer Jr Once Slammed This Popular Film as ‘Wrong and Inaccurate’

by Craig Garrett

Max Baer Jr once blasted director Ron Howard for the depiction of his champion boxer father in 2005’s award-winning Cinderella Man. The film successfully portrayed the tale of pugilist James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) in Howard’s 2005 biopic. It was a feel-good story about a heavyweight champion who defeated Depression-era odds to reclaim his title from Max Baer and win back his glory. However, in addition to doing this, the film also made his rival into a more cinematic villain than he was in reality.

From 1934 to 1935, Mr. Max Baer Sr. was the world heavyweight boxing champion. He was a dangerous fighter that killed an oppentnet, Frankie Campbell, in the ring. However, Cinderella Man‘s depiction of Baer as a malevolent miscreant who gloated about slaying a fellow boxer was incorrect. His son, actor and Beverly Hillbillies star, Max Baer Jr was livid over Craig Bierko’s portrayal of his father in the film. See a clip of Bierko as Max Baer Sr below.

In the 2010 book about one of his father’s opponents, Primo Carnera: The Life and Career of the Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Max Baer Jr spoke on the film. “The portrayal of my father in Cinderella Man couldn’t have been more wrong and inaccurate. They turned a good-hearted, fun-loving, friendly, and warm human being who hated boxing into Mr. T from Rocky III with no redeeming characteristics.”

Max Baer Jr wanted to belt the filmmakers of Cinderella Man

Apparently, time does not heal all wounds. Later in a 2017 interview with Fore magazine, Max Baer Jr took it a step further. “If Howard and Crowe were sitting here, I’d hit them,” he proclaimed. In the film, Max Baer is portrayed as unconcerned with the fact that he had murdered a man in a fight. In reality, however, after it happened, the boxer temporarily abandoned the sport. And when he returned, Baer was hesitant to engage in a fierce bout.

According to Max Baer Jr, his father was deeply wounded by killing an opponent in the ring. After the grim bout, he was a changed man. “He started smoking cigarettes and he had nightmares for years,” Baer Jr told Slate in 2005. Reportedly, Baer Sr ended up raising money for Campbell’s widow and son after his death.

The actor recalled getting beat up often in grade school. “I was Max Baer’s kid, so everyone wanted to see how tough I was,’’ he told Fore. “I remember running into my house crying, telling my dad a kid had just beaten me up. My dad wanted to know if I had hit the kid back. I told him, no, so he told me to go knock on the kid’s door and tell him it ain’t over. I did, we got into it and I got the best of him.”

His boxer father passed decades ago, but Max Baer Jr still looks up to his dad, “not as a fighter,’’ he said, “but as a person. He was my buddy.’’