Cast & Crew
William A. Wellman
Calvert University decides to improve the football team in order to attract more money to the school's coffers. Although the head of the school, Dr. Phillip Sargeant, is opposed to the action, the board hires Coach Gore, whose teams never lose but whose methods are a little shady. Gore brings in three new athletes, Buck Weaver, Matthews and Petrowsky, offering them money and signing them up for easy courses they are guaranteed to pass. Phil Sargeant, Dr. Sargeant's son, is the last member of Gore's "Four Aces." He is an outstanding player but he is even more interested in chemistry. While Gore is busy training his team and meeting with reporters, his wife Claire is lonely and feels abandoned. Buck flirts with her, but she isn't interested. When Phil does not complete his chemistry exam, but passes it anyway, he is angry about the dishonesty involved. Realizing that football is interfering with his studies, he quarrels with Gore and quits the team. Finally Claire, thinking that Gore is seeing other women, calls up Buck and goes to dinner with him. Gore happens to see them in the restaurant and kicks Buck off the team and Claire out of the house. The team starts losing and the chemistry department is threatened by the loss of funds. During the last big game, which Calvert must win, the team is behind twenty to nothing. Claire sweet talks Buck into playing and Phil also joins the game in order to save his beloved chemistry department. The Four Aces are back together, and Calvert wins in the last quarter. Claire and Gore are reconciled when he insists that he is going to quit football and devote himself to Claire, but when another school makes him a terrific offer, Claire accepts the position for him.
William A. Wellman
Charles C. Wilson
Leo F. Forbstein
Arthur L. Todd
College Coach also stars Pat O'Brien, who has the title role as a ruthless man determined to win no matter what it costs his players. The coach is so insensitive that he loses his wife (Ann Dvorak) to one of his players (Lyle Talbot). The film, which takes a rather harsh look at college football, is directed by the versatile and dynamic William A. Wellman (The Public Enemy, 1931; The Ox-Bow Incident, 1943) from a script by Niven Busch (The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946). A young unknown named John Wayne has a bit part as a classmate who has a brief conversation with Powell. Ward Bond also has an uncredited bit as an assistant coach.
Powell, two years into his career as a baby-faced crooner, would be transformed a decade later into a tough-guy detective in such films as Murder, My Sweet (1944). O'Brien, frequently cast in football epics, would enjoy his most famous role seven years later as another -- but much more sympathetic -- coach in Knute Rockne, All-American (1940).
Producer: Robert Lord
Director: William A. Wellman
Screenplay: Niven Busch, Manuel Seff
Cinematography: Arthur L. Todd
Art Direction: Jack Okey
Original Music (Songs): Sam Coslow, Sammy Fain, Arthur Freed, Al Goodhart, Hilda Gottlieb, Al Hoffman, Arthur Johnston, Irving Kahal, Johnny Mercer
Editing: Thomas Pratt
Principal Cast: Dick Powell (Phil Sargent), Pat O¿Brien (Coach Gore), Ann Dvorak (Claire Gore), Arthur Byron (Dr. Phillip Sargent), Lyle Talbot (Herbert "Buck" Weaver).
By Roger Fristoe
According to production reports included in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library, the film was made for a total cost of $245,000. In 1940, Pat O'Brien played Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, a role that is very similar to this one. (See below, Knute Rockne, All American.) Modern sources credit Robert Lord as supervisor.