Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Warner Archive Wednesday - College Coach (1933)

Title card for College Coach 1933

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.

John Wayne in a bit part in College Coach 1933 with Dick Powell

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.


  1. Movie looks great. I want to watch it now :) Thank you for posting this.

  2. College Coach is def typical WB fare of the day, nothing really outstanding about it except that awesome cast but its fun and does move along well thanks to Wellman's fast-paced direction. It is always a treat to see the Duke in these films! WB sure blew it with how they handled him, lol! They had Gable, the Duke and Susan Hayward all under contract when they were unknowns and let them go. oh well they still did pretty good!

    1. Paulie - I have to say that typical WB fare makes for really great movie watching. I don't feel overwhelmed and they are wonderful movies to watch on rainy days. I agree with you that WB didn't realize what they had with several of their stars. Including Bogie and Bette Davis!

  3. I really enjoyed this Wellman pre-Code, despite being a Brit who doesn't understand the first thing about American football! Glad to hear you enjoyed it too - it's so fast-moving and the cast is great. Love your piece and your screencaps! A pity that Wayne was still getting such tiny parts years after his great lead role in 'The Big Trail' - there's another great early Wellman, 'Central Airport', where Wayne doesn't even get any dialogue, and first time I watched it I blinked and missed his death scene!

    1. Judy - Thanks for stopping by. I'll have to watch Central Airport I haven't seen that one. It is a shame that they overlooked John Wayne but eventually his potential was realized. Who knows what other stars were overlooked but never got the opportunity to shine later like Wayne did.

  4. This is one of my favorite films about football. Thanks for shining a spotlight on this lesser known sports film. It's amazing how relevant the subject matter is after so many decades! The film may not be Oscar worthy, but it has a great cast, an enjoyable quick pace, and as you mentioned, perfect viewing for a rainy day. I had actually done a film location post for this one on Dear Old Hollywood. There are scenes filmed around Los Angeles and Pasadena, including the Los Angeles Coliseum, which is another reason I personally enjoy it.

  5. Interesting that Talbot's character is named Buck Weaver -- the same name as one of the eight players in the 1919 White Sox World Series scandal.


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