|THE BIG GAME (director/writer: George Nicholls Jr.; screenwriters: Irwin Shaw/based on the novel The Big Game by Francis Wallace; cinematographer: Harry Wild; editor: Frederic Knudtson; music: Nathaniel Shilkret; cast: Philip Huston (Clark Jenkins), June Travis (Margaret Anthony), James Gleason (George Scott), Bruce Cabot (Cal Calhoun), Andy Devine (Pop), C. Henry Gordon (Brad Anthony), John Harrington (Blackie), Guinn Williams (Pete Jenkins), John Arledge (Spike Adams), Frank M. Thomas (Coach), Edward Nugent (drunk), Billy Gilbert (drunk), Murray Kinnell (Dean), Margaret Seddon (Mrs. Jenkins), the members of the 1936 All-American Football Team - Stanford's Robert "Bones" Hamilton, NYU's Irwin "King Kong" Klein, Notre Dame's Bill Shakespeare, and Ohio State's Gomer Jones; runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro S. Berman; RKO; 1936-B/W)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Playwright Irwin Shaw's maiden Hollywood screenplay is a stinker, who even though a former college quarterback for Brooklyn College gets things wrong about the game. Director George Nicholls Jr. ("Anne of Green Gables"/"Finishing School") keeps everything looking phony. The football scenes are risible when viewed today, but also appear to be absurd for even back then in the day of leather helmets. Shaw bases his weak screenplay on the novel The Big Game by Francis Wallace.
When Atlantic University's star quarterback Clark Jenkins (Philip Huston) becomes romantically involved with Margaret Anthony (June Travis), a coed whose father, Brad Anthony (C. Henry Gordon), writes a powerful newspaper sports column, he's called out as a corrupt for accepting money from gambler George Scott (James Gleason). Clark explains that without George's subsidies, he and other players like Pop (Andy Devine), a former coal miner and father of three, would be unable to afford college. When Clark's knee is injured in practice, it's leaked to George and his gambling network by the star running back roommate of Clark, Cal Calhoun (Bruce Cabot). With that info, the bets shift radically to the other team by the gamblers. When Brad sees Cal talking to crooked gambling kingpin Blackie Dawson (John Harrington) at a practice session, he surmises Atlantic's football program is not on the level. His accusatory column in the newspaper makes the university's board of directors hold a meeting on whether to suspend Clark, but decides not to after hearing from the coach ().
On the day of the big game of the year, Blackie's boys kidnap Clark and bet a fortune on the other team. Clark's boxer brother Pete (Guinn Williams) thereby organizes some of the football players to track the hotel room where the gamblers are keeping Clark and rush the room to free him so he gets the winning touchdown in the nick of time. It results in him getting the girl and her father's approval.
In cameos, it features members of the 1936 All-American Football Team - Stanford's Robert "Bones" Hamilton, NYU's Irwin "King Kong" Klein, Notre Dame's Bill Shakespeare, and Ohio State's Gomer Jones.
REVIEWED ON 7/1/2017 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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