8 December 2007 | dougdoepke
1949 sleeper from RKO. At that early date pro football was still in its infancy. Thus a movie dealing with the subject must have seemed like a piece of exotica and I doubt the production made any money. Sixty years later, however, the Charles Schnee script and Jaques Tourneur direction stand as a perceptive glimpse into pro-sports at the high end, as valid now as then and definitely ahead of its time.
Star quarterback Victor Mature is a regular guy, but is drawn into the fast lane by ambitious wife Liz Scott. She's all glamor and ego, eager to hang on to her headline husband. The scenes of urban highlife and sophistication are particularly well done-- the penthouses and sleekly groomed sharks swimming around eyeing new prey. Vic's uncomfortable and senses glamorous snares, but Liz sees only social climbing opportunity, while souless, silver fox Art Baker is only too happy to oblige. In a word she strays.
On the other hand, good guy Sonny Tufts (in a tailor made part) and salt-of-the-earth wife Jeff Donnell represent the other side of Mature-- his down-to-earth side. He's drawn in both directions, and it's this conflict that sets the dramatic stage. Will he hang on to Liz and the easy life or settle for a meagre coaching job with pal Tufts. He'll have to decide because the old ticker has become a problem. In short, he's facing a crisis of values.
One scene really worth noting. The team has cut journeyman lineman Gordon Jones. He's the kind of player who eats dirt every week so the quarterback can look good. Behind him are a thousand more grunts waiting to take his place. Now he wants a piece of a tavern and a place to hang his jersey and maybe a little dignity for all the pain. Watch his quick, knowing reactions to the snobbish Liz as she ignores this "loser". What a great line when he refuses the ride next to her, saying, "The subway's good enough for me". It's a whole little morality play summed up in a few seconds.
Unfortunately the film shows its period with an unsatisfactory Hollywood ending consistent with the conventions of the day, and enough to make modern-day feminists apoplectic. Then too, the Lucille Ball role seems overdrawn and unnecessary. Nonetheless, the supporting cast is outstanding, blending easily into a smoothly executed production that again demonstrates the industry's polished level of professionalism. Definitely deserves a second look.