Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Knute Rockne-All American was Pat O'Brien's finest hour: thanks to intensive rehearsals and numerous makeup applications, he so closely resembled the title character that, in the words of Rockne's widow, "I almost expected him to make love with me". The life of the legendary Notre Dame football coach is recounted from his childhood, when young Rockne (played by Johnny Sheffield) startles his Norwegian-immigrant parents by announcing at the dinner table that he's just been introduced to "the most wonderful game of the world." As an adult, Rockne works his way through Indiana's Notre Dame university, under the watchful and benevolent eye of Father Callahan (Donald Crisp) A brilliant student, Rockne is urged by Father Nieuwland (Albert Basserman) to become a chemist, or at the very least remain a chemistry teacher. Newly married to Bonnie Skilles (Gale Page), Rockne at first sticks to academics, but the call of the gridiron is too loud for him to ignore, and before long he has built his reputation as the winningest college football coach in America. One of his most significant contributions to the game is the invention of the tactical shift, inspired by the precision choreography of a team of nightclub dancers! Among the players nurtured by Rockne are the immortal Four Horsemen-Miller (William Marshall), Stuhlreder (Harry Lukats), Laydon (Kane Richmond) and Crowley (William Byrne), and of course the tragic George Gipp, superbly enacted by Ronald Reagan. His career continues unabated until his death in a plane crash in 1931. The screenplay of Knute Rockne-All American tends to be all highlights and little story, with several of the more dramatic passages telegraphed well in advance (just before her husband's death, Bonnie Rockne comments forebodingly "It's gotten cold all of a sudden"). Still, the film remains one of the best and most inspirational sports biographies ever made, with a heart-wrenching conclusion guaranteed to moisten the eyes of even the most jaundiced viewer. Ironically, the film's most famous scene, George Gipp's deathbed admonition to "Win one for the Gipper", was for many years excised from all TV prints due to a legal entanglement stemming from an earlier radio dramatization of Rockne's life; fortunately, this and several related scenes were restored to the film in the early 1990s.
sports, coach, college, crash, disease, football, football-player, funeral, immigrant, priest
High Historical Importance