SOME YEARS BACK there was a nationally conducted poll done among fans of College Football. Two questions were asked of its participants. They were as follows:
A. "What is your most beloved College Football Team?"
B. "What is your most hated College Football Team?"
PERHAPS IT SHOULD come as no surprise that the number one answer to both questions was the same, "Notre Dame!" It is certainly no secret that there are few who have neutral feelings about "The Fighting Irish"; either you love 'em, or you loathe the Gold & Blue!
THE UNIVERSITY certainly has been a very popular subject for the sportswriters of the 20th and the early 21st Century. The accomplishments and exploits of legendary Head Coach, Norweigen Immigrant boy, Knute Rockne, have provided the fodder for many a $en$ational, paper selling headline. From that great upset of Army in 1906 (when Knute was a student-athlete*), to his engineering of newer, lively offensive tactics (including the Notre Dame Tee to Box Formation Shift), to a shocking, seemingly premature departure from this world, the man was a true hero to the American Public.
NOT SURPRISINGLY, there have been several films made with Notre Dame, Mr. Rockne and College Football at their heart. Most everyone is familiar with KNUTE ROCKNE, ALL-American (Warner Brothers, 1940); which starred Mr. Pat O'Brien as the famous Coach and featured the future 40th President of the U.S., one Ronald Wilson Reagan, as the ill-fated George Gipp. (The "Gipper".)
MORE RECENTLY audiences were treated to the story of a young boy's dream-come-true to play Football on the Fighting Irish squad in the factually based Sports Biopic, RUDY (Tri-Star, 1994). There had been some talk of yet another movie to be done in a less than flattering attitude to Notre Dame tentatively to be titled GOLDEN GLORY. Nothing concrete has yet to surface on this; perhaps some influential Alums has managed to successfully have this project postponed-permanently! (Remember, Schultz-you either love 'em or hate 'em! There's no middle ground, no 'Fence Sitters' here!)
THIS Saturday WE HAD the good fortune to screen the far lesser known title and perhaps the first feature film to focus so closely on the South Bend Unoiversity and a movie that seems to be an almost forgotten motion picture. We're speaking about today's special honoree, THE SPIRIT OF NOTRE DAME (Universal, 1031).
FEATURING A STARRING cast with Lew Ayers, Sally Blaine, Wlliam Bakewell, J. Farrell McDonald** and Andy Divine for comic relief, the story is pretty much like so many other College Pictures of the era. You know, after some serious conflicts, the hero finally comes through and helps to win the big game. All's well and the principal characters live happily ever after.
AS FAR AS the construction of the film, it is very episodic and is made in a manner as if it were a loosely related group of two reel comedies. Im that manner, there is a great similarity to the TV series format.
A VERY INTERESTING and highly publicized feature is the use of real life "Domers"; playing themselves. We have members of Rockme's 1928 National Championship team; including the 'Four Horsemen & the Seven Mules." College Football was in this period tops; with the Professional Football Game being treated as a sort of afterthought.
WE DO HIGHLY recommend it for everyone, if only for its historical value. Those interested can find it on DVD. Just Google the title.
NOTE * Contrary to popular belief, Rockne didn't invent the forward pass, but did change it from a sort of underhand forward pitch-out(now often called a "Shovel Pass") to the overhand spiral "bombs" that we know & love today.
NOTE** Knute Rockne was slated to appear in the movie as himself; but died in the plane crash om way to West Coast. J. Ferrell McDonald as coach is never given a name and made for a fine on screen likeness. The film, was appropriately dedicated to Coach Rockne.