Joe Palooka jumps off the comics page in the form of Stu Erwin and Jimmy Durante as his manic manager Knobby Walsh. His big opponent is Al McSwatt played by William Cagney, James’ brother. Durante makes it a lot of fun but it is tough to buy Erwin as a boxer.
Pete Palooka (Robert Armstrong) is the champ. His wife Mayme (Marjorie Rambeau) catches him in a nightclub celebrating with champagne and a blonde (Thelma Todd). It’s not the first time but it will be the last. She decks the blonde and tells Pete that she’s taking their baby son Joey and splitting.
Twenty years later: Mayme and Joe are running an unsuccessful farm. Joe is on his way to drop some eggs off at the train station. He passes a car with Knobby Walsh and fighter Dynamite Wilson. The two are arguing over money and Dynamite decks him. Joe gets into the act and decks Dynamite. After a lot of persistence Knobby gets Joe to sign a contract.
Joe tells his girlfriend Anne Howe (Mary Carlisle) but says not to say anything to his mother. He wants her to think he’s got a job. He gets knocked out in his first fight. Knobby is about to send him home until McSwatt’s manager tells Knobby he has to get a fight for the champ. Might as well use Joe as a chump.
The night of the fight McSwatt is out clubbing with Nina (Lupe Velez) and shows up drunk. Joe wins the bout and is the champ. Nina switches over to Joe. Knobby sets up some fake bouts without Joe’s knowledge and he’s a big winner. His ego goes through the roof.
Mayme hears about it on the radio. She and Anne head for New York to set him straight. He’s not budging since he really thinks his wins were legit. McSwatt’s manager tricks him into a rematch at Madison Square Garden. Then Pete shows up after twenty years and offers to train him for the big bout.
During the movie Lupe Velez sings and Jimmy has a scene where he does “Inka Dinka Doo.’ The bandleader in the nightclub scenes is Gus Arnheim.
This isn’t for everybody but if you’re a Durante fan be sure and check it out.