Fascinating, lavishly illustrated story of the successful life and career of boxer Tom Heeney, New Zealand’s first international sporting hero, and contender in New York for the World Heavyweight title in 1928.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2010
Boxer Tom Heeney was New Zealand’s first international sporting hero, a contender in New York for the World Heavyweight title in 1928. Though he lost the fight (after 11 brutal rounds) New Zealanders exulted then, as now, in the ‘world class’ status of one of our own. With a reputation for doggedness and straight dealing in a notoriously corrupt game, ‘Honest Tom’ became a rich man and footed it with the smart set in Jazz Age Manhattan and eventually parlayed his good name into a long and successful second career running a celebrity bar in Miami. In the process of writing Heeney’s biography, Dublin-based New Zealander Lydia Monin unearthed a wealth of archival footage and met many colourful commentators. Her instinct that there might be a film in such rich material is thoroughly vindicated. Heeney’s life story becomes an emblematic success story, a tale of more innocent times when a poor Irish immigrant’s son could rise to the top of the capitalist heap through good luck, punishing hard work and a clean conscience. — BG