Merriam-Webster provides the following two definitions for the word "opportunity":
- a favorable juncture of circumstances
- a good chance for advancement or progress
We talk about opportunities passing us by, grabbing an opportunity when we can, and scolding others for being opportunists. Opportunities are tricky things. Some we are lucky to stumble upon, others we can't take because of extenuating circumstances and other opportunities we create ourselves.
James J. Corbett (Errol Flynn) is an opportunist in the fullest meaning of the term. He finds opportunities but for the most part he makes them. He's not satisfied with a little success, he wants it all. He wants to be a gentleman, he wants the girl and he wants the fame that comes with being the best Victorian prize-fighter in San Francisco. Corbett will take any circumstance and turn it around into an opportunity. Even when the odds are against him.
Again we see Flynn in a based-on-a-true-story film which wildly exaggerates the truth in order to entertain audiences with a hot-shot opportunist character who triumphs through sheer determination. That's a real "American" story is it not? He's an Irishman from humble origins and we want to see him rise to the very top. Why? Because we want the same for ourselves. We want those opportunities. We want to be the best. We want to overcome our circumstances and triumph.
This film lavishes it's attention on the Corbett who starts at the bottom and reaches the top. Because that's the most interesting story. However, we see the downfall of another boxer, John L. Sullivan, and although we may ignore our gut feeling, Corbett's heading for the same fate. No matter how successful we are and how many opportunities we seize, we will all be replaced by someone younger. It's the sad inevitable truth of life. All we can ask for is to be remembered kindly and to hope that our triumphs inspire future ones.