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The movie runs barely an hour and must have cost all of 50 bucks to make. What makes this little programmer noteworthy is its topic-- big time college football as a big time business. Actually the screenplay could have been plucked from today's sports headlines. Sixty years has made little difference in how the college game is played or in how players are affected by the commercialism.
A very young Van Heflin is the team quarterback who gets his brains beat out every week for a scholarship but no money. So he picks up proceeds from illegal ticket-scalping. The coach knows it and so does the college president, but they look the other way because of his value to the team. So, in a clear sense, these school officials are parties to an illicit act.
I like the way the screenplay shows how the practice is embedded in the larger school administration because of what the profits from big time football mean to the school and its alumni, despite the corruptive influence. Of course, the schemes for benefiting key players in today's game have gone far beyond penny-ante scalping, as sports headlines now and again indicate. Nonetheless, in the movie, Heflin's solution is a simple and straightforward one-- pay the players for performing. Then, of course, they're no longer amateurs, but at least an important element of corruption is removed from the game.
The fact that big time college football continues the pretense of the amateur athlete shows not only the power of the mystique but the advantages of not having to pay the work force. And one reason I expect the movie got made when it did is because of the Depression era concern with the well-being of labor in all fields including even college football.
The film itself is marred by a lot of silliness from Frank Sully as the stereotypical dumb lineman. There's also the usual boy-girl complications that include the super-cute Marian Marsh. On the other hand, there's some fine acting from Heflin, clearly on his way to bigger things, and also what I think is a legitimately funny running-gag from Al "Fuzzy" St. John as the grizzled "water boy". Though obviously dated in most respects, there remains a solid core of interest behind this cheap RKO programmer.
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