College Coach (1933) is a film that combines two of my favorite themes in early films: sports and collegiate culture. Calvert College is in trouble. They just put some money into their science department and now they are on the brink of bankruptcy. They get the idea to hire Coach Gore (Pat O'Brien), a college football coach whose success in developing teams that draw crowds and win championships is well-known. The board of the college figure that a healthy and attractive football program will bring enough revenue to help the college recover from it's financial crisis.
Coach Gore hires athletes to be fake college students so they can play on the college's football team and bring the success that the college is looking for. Two of his hired players Buck Weaver (Lyle Talbot) and Phil Sargeant (Dick Powell) don't see eye to eye.
And not only that Weaver has an eye for Gore's wife (Ann Dvorak). Things become complicated as Gore continues to neglect his wife, as Weaver causes more problems and as Sargeant figures out he really wants to study chemistry and the chemistry department is dependent on the football team's success in order to continue.
I love the dilemma between academics and sports. We all know that talented athletes are highly sought after my colleges and universities. And even today there is still debate about how much a school should invest in it's academics versus it's sports. Sports definitely bring more public recognition to a school than academics (unless we are talking about Harvard or MIT or something). ESPN will not be covering students doing a particularly tough chemistry experiment but will cover their basketball game. In College Coach (1933), the college's academics is the poorer cousin to the much more handsome prospect of a robust football program. There is contention between them both with the hired players passing classes without having to do any studying.
College Coach is a fun movie with a good cast. It's not particularly collegiate. Some of the early scenes show students at games, together in dorms expressing their college spirit. The focus of this film is definitely the business behind college football and how the manipulation of Gore and his hired players causes problems for the school and for personal relationships.
Technically it's a pre-code but it's pretty tame. There is one scene in which Weaver (Lyle Talbot) hangs up a picture of a swell looking dame on a shelf much to the dismay of Sargeant. Weaver points to the picture and proclaims: "How would you like to stick your finger in..."
OH MY GOODNESS! I was so scandalized until he finished
How would you like to stick your finger in her coffee?
Phew! Also, who sticks their fingers in girls' coffees? Is this a thing? Is it to break the bubble of personal space?
Fun fact: A very young John Wayne has a bit part as a college student.
College Coach (1933) is available from the Warner Archive and at various online retailers.
Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Movies selected are rented from Classicflix, watched on TCM or purchased from Warner Archive, Classicflix or TCM. This series is not sponsored by Warner Archive.