The Iron Major (1943)

85 or 90 mins | Biography | 1943

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HISTORY

The opening credits feature the following acknowledgment: "RKO Radio Pictures wishes to gratefully acknowledge the gracious cooperation of the University of Cincinnati, Boston College, Boston University School of Law, Dartmouth College, College of the Holy Cross, Fordham University and Major Frank Cavanaugh's legion of friends and admirers." As depicted in the film, Frank Cavanaugh (1876--1933), was a celebrated college football coach and World War I hero. A pre-production news item in HR notes that Jane Wyatt tested for the female lead in this picture. Although a HR news item adds Josh Hardin to the cast, his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to other news items in HR , the football scenes were filmed on location at Dartmouth, Fordham, Boston and Holy Cross colleges. The production was shut down from 20 May-24 May 1943 when Pat O'Brien left for a personal appearance tour to promote his film Bombardier (See Entry). O'Brien also appeared as Knute Rockne, another famous college football coach, in the 1940 RKO film Knute Rockne-All American (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2320). This picture marked the return of Leon Ames to the screen after a two-year hiatus spent performing on ... More Less

The opening credits feature the following acknowledgment: "RKO Radio Pictures wishes to gratefully acknowledge the gracious cooperation of the University of Cincinnati, Boston College, Boston University School of Law, Dartmouth College, College of the Holy Cross, Fordham University and Major Frank Cavanaugh's legion of friends and admirers." As depicted in the film, Frank Cavanaugh (1876--1933), was a celebrated college football coach and World War I hero. A pre-production news item in HR notes that Jane Wyatt tested for the female lead in this picture. Although a HR news item adds Josh Hardin to the cast, his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to other news items in HR , the football scenes were filmed on location at Dartmouth, Fordham, Boston and Holy Cross colleges. The production was shut down from 20 May-24 May 1943 when Pat O'Brien left for a personal appearance tour to promote his film Bombardier (See Entry). O'Brien also appeared as Knute Rockne, another famous college football coach, in the 1940 RKO film Knute Rockne-All American (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.2320). This picture marked the return of Leon Ames to the screen after a two-year hiatus spent performing on Broadway. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 Oct 1943.
---
Daily Variety
20 Oct 43
p. 3, 6
Film Daily
25 Oct 43
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 42
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 43
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 43
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 43
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 43
p. 3, 6
Motion Picture Herald
23 Oct 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
25 Sep 43
p. 1555.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 Oct 43
p. 1593.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
4 Dec 43
p. 1655.
New York Times
1 Nov 43
p. 12.
Variety
20 Oct 43
p. 12.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Richard Dillon
Victor Kilian Jr.
Joe Crehan
Robert Andersen
Cy Ring
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
VISUAL EFFECTS
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech dir of football seq
Tech dir of World War I seq
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
Boston premiere: 25 October 1943
Production Date:
late April--early July 1943
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
27 October 1943
Copyright Number:
LP12435
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85 or 90
Length(in feet):
7,670
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9369
SYNOPSIS

In Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1942, seven children of beloved football coach Frank "Cav" Cavanaugh are sworn into the military service to serve their country in World War II. As Cav's wife Florence proudly shows old family friend Father Tim Donavan pictures of her children dressed in their military uniforms, Tim presents her with a story that he is writing about her departed husband: Tim's story begins in Worcester in 1891, when Cav is fifteen years old. Young Cav's parents hope that he will give up football for a career in law, but when his high school coach suggests that he play college football at Dartmouth, Cav and his friend Bob vow to attend that university. Several years later, Bob and Cav are members of the Dartmouth team. Just as he is elected team captain, Cav receives word of his father's death. To support his family, Cav leaves Dartmouth and accepts a job coaching at the University of Cincinnati. By implementing rigid training rules, Cav molds his players into a winning team and moves on to the University of Denver. While visiting home one day, Cav meets Florence Ayres and decides to return to Worcester and study law. After earning his law degree, Cav loses his temper and insults the judge at his first trial. Although Cav is discouraged, Florence insists that they marry and move in with her parents. After the birth of their first child, Cav returns to football and takes a job coaching at Worcester's Holy Cross University, where he meets Tim, a player on the team. A successful season at Holy Cross leads to an offer to coach at ... +


In Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1942, seven children of beloved football coach Frank "Cav" Cavanaugh are sworn into the military service to serve their country in World War II. As Cav's wife Florence proudly shows old family friend Father Tim Donavan pictures of her children dressed in their military uniforms, Tim presents her with a story that he is writing about her departed husband: Tim's story begins in Worcester in 1891, when Cav is fifteen years old. Young Cav's parents hope that he will give up football for a career in law, but when his high school coach suggests that he play college football at Dartmouth, Cav and his friend Bob vow to attend that university. Several years later, Bob and Cav are members of the Dartmouth team. Just as he is elected team captain, Cav receives word of his father's death. To support his family, Cav leaves Dartmouth and accepts a job coaching at the University of Cincinnati. By implementing rigid training rules, Cav molds his players into a winning team and moves on to the University of Denver. While visiting home one day, Cav meets Florence Ayres and decides to return to Worcester and study law. After earning his law degree, Cav loses his temper and insults the judge at his first trial. Although Cav is discouraged, Florence insists that they marry and move in with her parents. After the birth of their first child, Cav returns to football and takes a job coaching at Worcester's Holy Cross University, where he meets Tim, a player on the team. A successful season at Holy Cross leads to an offer to coach at Dartmouth. As the war in Europe escalates, Cav's players begin to drop out of school and enlist in the military. When Tim, now a priest, visits his old coach on his way to the front, Cav rails against enlisting, claiming that football is his fight. In response, Tim answers that the war is everyone's fight. When the United States declares war on Germany, Cav enlists out of a sense of duty to his country, ignoring Florence's objections that he is the father of six children and should stay at home. Cav is sent overseas, where he is promoted to captain and assigned to rally the exhausted troops for a march to the front. On the grueling trek, Cav offers encouragement to Manning, a young private who breaks down under the strain. While on a special reconnaissance mission one day, Cav is gravely wounded and almost dies of his injuries. At the hospital, he is visited by Manning, who tells him that he has been named the "Iron Major" because of his ability to survive. Sent home to recover, Cav is visited by Bob, who offers him a coaching job at Boston College. At Boston, Cav discovers that his players are skeptical about the capability of their convalescing coach. Cav proves himself by drilling his underdog team into shape and rallying them to a victory over Yale. Several winning seasons later, Cav visits Tim and confesses that his eyesight and health are failing and the doctor has advised him that he has only five more years to live. To provide security for his family, Cav decides to take a lucrative job at Fordham University in New York City. Despite his gradually failing eyesight, Cav molds his team into winners. His career culminates five years later, when he goes totally blind during a game in which his team wins the intersectional championship by beating Oregon State. After the game, the players present the now blind Cav with the football, and he bids them farewell and resigns. On his deathbed, Cav urges his friends and family to continue fighting for their beliefs. Completing his story, Tim salutes Cav's spirit as American fighting troops march into war. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.