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Plot Summary

  • Tom Harmon (ol' # 98 for the Michigan Wolverines, husband of actress Elyse Knox and father of Mark Harmon and Kelly Harmon)took a back seat to no one on the football field (except the Minnesota Gophers) or, later, in the broadcast booth, but, on film, he managed to find himself in two of the all-time bad sports movies..."The Spirit of West Point" and "Harmon of Michigan." The latter, if it had been a true-life biography of Tom Harmon, might have made a passable film but after a short prologue, narrated by sports writer Bill Henry who is not the same as actor William Henry, that semi-recaps Harmon's football-playing days at the University of Michigan, it quickly develops into a mess that indicates the director and writers used the technical adviser, Coach Jeff Cravath, only to put plays on the blackboard. Once Harmon,(supposedly playing himself but the character he plays here has more character flaws than the law allows), graduates from Michigan, he marries his college sweetheart Peggy Adams (Anita Louise), turns up his nose at the prospect of playing professional football---a poor-paying and not-that-well respected job in 1941---and starts a vagabond tour of coaching tank-water colleges. Authenicity went out the window when the narration ended, as did any kind of time tracking, as everything that follows seems to happen in a single football season. Tom takes an assistant coach job at a cow-pasture college under Jimmy Wayburn (William Hall) and lasts one day before Wayburn fires him. Then he signs to play for a College All-Star team doing exhibition games against pro teams, but his team-mates, hacked because Tom gets star billing, lay down on him and he gets smacked down hard on every play. One of the leaders willing to let Harmon get slaughtered is old Michigan teammate Forrest Evashevski (playing himself), a life-long friend in real life and Godfather to Mark Harmon and a long-time respected coach at the University of Iowa. Harmon wins the game by himself, but decides this isn't his cup of tea. He hangs around the house a few weeks, then gets a job as an assistant under old-time coach Pop Branch at a college that has three buidings on campus and a football stadium seating 100,000 fans. He helps Pop win a few games (still ticking along in what appears to be the same fall football season), but the alumni at Webster College are tired of losing, fire their coach and hire Harmon away from Pop. Harmon takes over the Webster team in mid-season and becomes the all-time example of a hard-ass coach willing to win at any cost, including installing a screen-pass play that depends on an illegal blcoking scheme---the Flying Wedge---to make it work. His Webster team begins to thump their opponents by large scores, usually leaving the other team battered and bloodied by the use of the illegal blocking scheme. They win four or five games which, based on the writers time scheme, would have them playing 20 games a season in what was then a nine-and-ten game season. Plus, the press and other coaches around and about, are up in arms about Harmon's tatics, but the jerks refereeing the games evidently haven't read the rule book nor the newspapers and throw no penalty flags against his team. Well, one referee does once, but he never officiated nor had lunch in that town again. It, by any reasonable calendar must now be July of the next year in a season that should have ended in December, and hard-case Harmon's team is going up against Pop's team (where Harmon coached earlier in this never-ending season) and Pop drops by and tells Tom he ain't all that fond of Tom's coaching methods, but Tom poo-pahs him off, and then sends his team out and they gleefully dismantle Pop's fair-playing team by 109-0. But Webster's quarterback Freddie Davis (Stanley Brown) suffers a concussion running a play Harmon calls just to run up the score even higher---Harmon evidently didn't read the script because nobody using their own name would want this character perceived as Himself---and it's nip-and-tuck whether Freddie will get out of the hospital alive. It gets even stickier when Freddie parents drop their hospital vigil long enough to tell Tom they are right proud that he is Freddie's coach. Say what? Tom sees the light and reverts back to the good old boy he started out as.

    - Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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