Saturday's Hero (1951)

111 mins | Drama | September 1951

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Hero . The title was changed, according to Var , so that patrons would not think they were going to see a war film. According to news items, Columbia bought the film rights to the novel, Millard Lampell's first, in Nov 1948 before publication for budding star John Derek, who had recently appeared in Knock on Any Door . Plans were set for production to begin in the spring of 1949; however, in Aug 1949, writer-producer Sidney Buchman, who had been the executive assistant to Columbia studio's chief, Harry Cohn, acquired the rights to produce the film for Columbia. A NYT news item stated that the film was to be Buchman's first directorial effort. Buchman, in a Jun 1950 NYT article, stated that his purpose in making the film was to expose "the great American hypocrisy of football" in a manner similar to the way the recent films Champion , Body and Soul and The Set-Up treated boxing. Buchman hired as technical advisors former University of Southern California star players Mickey McCardle and Paul Cleary, who sympathized with his aims.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, when PCA officials read a draft of the proposed film dated 21 Feb 1950, they viewed the film as subversive. One official, E. G. Dougherty, wrote to Cohn on 3 Mar 1950 that the story "is one of shame-faced class distinction--one that milks and exploits that theme to its fullest extent. The story is thoroughly un-American--in fact, anti-American. This is ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Hero . The title was changed, according to Var , so that patrons would not think they were going to see a war film. According to news items, Columbia bought the film rights to the novel, Millard Lampell's first, in Nov 1948 before publication for budding star John Derek, who had recently appeared in Knock on Any Door . Plans were set for production to begin in the spring of 1949; however, in Aug 1949, writer-producer Sidney Buchman, who had been the executive assistant to Columbia studio's chief, Harry Cohn, acquired the rights to produce the film for Columbia. A NYT news item stated that the film was to be Buchman's first directorial effort. Buchman, in a Jun 1950 NYT article, stated that his purpose in making the film was to expose "the great American hypocrisy of football" in a manner similar to the way the recent films Champion , Body and Soul and The Set-Up treated boxing. Buchman hired as technical advisors former University of Southern California star players Mickey McCardle and Paul Cleary, who sympathized with his aims.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, when PCA officials read a draft of the proposed film dated 21 Feb 1950, they viewed the film as subversive. One official, E. G. Dougherty, wrote to Cohn on 3 Mar 1950 that the story "is one of shame-faced class distinction--one that milks and exploits that theme to its fullest extent. The story is thoroughly un-American--in fact, anti-American. This is a vicious kind of story, particularly because it is very well written." Dougherty backed up the charge by quoting dialogue from the script spoken by the character of "Professor Megroth" in which he calls the U.S. "a country that makes it a humiliation to be Polish or poor or Italian or Jewish--to have a father who speaks with an accent, a mother who came over from the old country." Dougherty also criticized the script for the numerous times that the word "Polack" was used "in an insulting manner" and for suggestions that the relationship between "McCabe" and "Melissa" might involve an "abnormal attraction." According to a memo of 19 Feb 1951, after the film was shot, Buchman agreed to cut out elements that the PCA still felt might be suggestive of an incestuous relationship. Dougherty wrote at that time, "There is, still... a very peculiar quality not generally found in normal family relationships, but we believe this can be interpreted merely as the attitude of an overly possessive man who has shown an attitude similar to this towards other characters in the story."
       Football sequences were shot at Pomona College, the Pasadena Rose Bowl and the Los Angeles Coliseum with over 100 college and professional football players, according to an article in CSM . Twenty players were from the USC and UCLA teams, according to DV . Those schools reached an agreement with Columbia that the studio would issue no publicity concerning the players' names because of the fear that fans might think their appearance in the film would compromise their amateur status. Although Saturday's Hero was the first film made by Aldo Ray, who at the time used his real surname, DaRe, My True Story (see above) was Ray's first released film. Var noted that previous to acting, he had been an elected constable in Crockett, CA. Time called Ray the "film's most natural performer."
       The film was shot a few months before a West Point athletics "cribbing scandal" was uncovered. According to NYT , Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas, author of a Congressional resolution to overhaul the educational system at West Point, appeared in a trailer endorsing the film, which also was made before the scandal at West Point made the news. Fulbright, in the trailer, says, "many who see this picture may not believe that such things exist. Unfortunately, there is too much evidence to the contrary." Controversy concerning the film occurred when pickets in Los Angeles charged that Buchman, Lampell and actor Alexander Knox were Communists. According to news stories, Buchman admitted in a 1951 hearing of the House Committee on Un-American Activities that he once had been a Communist. Columbia issued a statement that at the time the film was made, none of those mentioned were members of the Communist Party, and Harry Cohn threatened legal action against the group picketing after Knox stated that he had never been a member. Buchman was found guilty of contempt of Congress in 1953 when he refused to name Communists or former Communists. He received a suspended sentence and was fined $150, according to NYT . Both Buchman and Lampell were blacklisted by the industry.
       Saturday's Hero marked the first score for composer Elmer Bernstein (1922--2004), who became one of the most popular and influential film composers of the last half of the twentieth century. His broad range included scores as diverse as those for The Man with the Golden Arm , The Ten Commandments , The Magnificent Seven and To Kill a Mockingbird (see entries above and below). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
8 Sep 1951.
---
Christian Science Monitor
4 Nov 1950.
---
Cue
15 Sep 1951.
---
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1950.
---
Daily Variety
2 Aug 1950.
---
Daily Variety
22 Aug 51
p. 3.
Daily Variety
19 Oct 1951.
---
Daily Variety
22 Oct 1951.
---
Daily Variety
24 Oct 1951.
---
Film Daily
23 Aug 51
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
25 Aug 51
p. 134.
Hollywood Citizen-News
19 Oct 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1949.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 50
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 50
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 51
p. 3.
International Photographer
Oct 51
p. 4, 16-17.
Look
25 Sep 1951.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
19 Oct 1951.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
8 Feb 1949.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1948.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Oct 1951.
---
Motion Picture Daily
23 Aug 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
25 Aug 51
p. 989.
New York Times
7 Aug 1949.
---
New York Times
11 Jun 1950.
---
New York Times
26 Aug 1951.
---
New York Times
11 Sep 51
p. 33.
New York Times
12 Sep 51
p. 37.
New York Times
9 Feb 1960.
---
New York Times
12 May 1960.
---
Newsweek
10 Sep 1951.
---
The Exhibitor
29 Aug 51
p. 3133.
Time
15 Oct 1951.
---
Variety
22 Aug 51
p. 10.
Variety
10 Oct 1951.
---
Variety
17 Oct 1951.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
William W. Armstrong
Clark Howat
Oscar Dutch Hendrian
Thomas Brown Henry
Tom Herman
William Scully
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Wrt for the screen by
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
SOUND
Sd eng
Re-rec
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Dir of pub
Football trainer
Football trainer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Hero by Millard Lampell (New York, 1949).
SONGS
"Loyal Sons of Psi Gamma," by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin
"The Canteen Song" and "Jackson Fight Song," by Paul Mertz and Morris Stoloff
"Hail Jackson U," by Paul Mertz
+
SONGS
"Loyal Sons of Psi Gamma," by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin
"The Canteen Song" and "Jackson Fight Song," by Paul Mertz and Morris Stoloff
"Hail Jackson U," by Paul Mertz
"Pije Kuba," Polish drinking song
"Lulujze Jezuniu," Polish Christmas carol.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Hero
Release Date:
September 1951
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 September 1951
Production Date:
12 June--9 September 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
14 June 1951
Copyright Number:
LP970
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
111
Length(in feet):
9,920
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14623
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a Saturday afternoon in autumn in a small mill town in New Jersey, halfback Steve Novak leads his high school football team to a 21-0 victory. Following the game, Steve, his father Jan, a Polish immigrant, and his older brother Joey, a wounded, unemployed war veteran, sing together in Polish outside the neighborhood bar. Steve wants to go to college at Jackson in Virginia, considered one of the best schools in the world, but local newspaperman Eddie Abrams discourages him, saying that the school does not pay its players and that his chances for becoming an All-American there would be slim because Jackson is not a top football school. After graduation, a representative from Jackson, which is trying to build a good team, invites Steve to enroll, saying that occasionally certain alumni benefactors will "adopt" a boy and pay for his tuition. While Eddie accuses Steve of desiring to become "Joe College," a rich snob in his eyes, Jan proudly sends Steve off with a saying in Polish. Joey, drunk and feeling sorry for himself, snidely suggests that Steve may want to change his name from "Novak" to "Nelson." Steve becomes the top scorer in the freshman circuit as Jackson wins its games by large margins. His teammates include a number of working-class youths, who contrast greatly with the rest of the student body. Gene Hausler, from a mining town, brags to Steve that he is getting money under the table for playing and encourages him to do the same. When Hausler calls the school a "racket," Bob Whittier, a local rich boy, is insulted, as his father is an alumnus. Steve soon encounters ... +


On a Saturday afternoon in autumn in a small mill town in New Jersey, halfback Steve Novak leads his high school football team to a 21-0 victory. Following the game, Steve, his father Jan, a Polish immigrant, and his older brother Joey, a wounded, unemployed war veteran, sing together in Polish outside the neighborhood bar. Steve wants to go to college at Jackson in Virginia, considered one of the best schools in the world, but local newspaperman Eddie Abrams discourages him, saying that the school does not pay its players and that his chances for becoming an All-American there would be slim because Jackson is not a top football school. After graduation, a representative from Jackson, which is trying to build a good team, invites Steve to enroll, saying that occasionally certain alumni benefactors will "adopt" a boy and pay for his tuition. While Eddie accuses Steve of desiring to become "Joe College," a rich snob in his eyes, Jan proudly sends Steve off with a saying in Polish. Joey, drunk and feeling sorry for himself, snidely suggests that Steve may want to change his name from "Novak" to "Nelson." Steve becomes the top scorer in the freshman circuit as Jackson wins its games by large margins. His teammates include a number of working-class youths, who contrast greatly with the rest of the student body. Gene Hausler, from a mining town, brags to Steve that he is getting money under the table for playing and encourages him to do the same. When Hausler calls the school a "racket," Bob Whittier, a local rich boy, is insulted, as his father is an alumnus. Steve soon encounters Melissa, the niece and ward of his benefactor, millionaire entrepreneur T. C. McCabe, when she flirts with him at a fraternity party. In his sophomore year, at a party following the varsity's eighth straight victory, Melissa taunts Steve, calling him "T. C.'s latest toy," but before he leaves to go home for Christmas, she kisses his cheek and says he is very sweet. At home, Steve finds that Joey has a new job. During the family's Christmas celebration, Melissa phones and says she is nearby. Steve meets her and they kiss passionately, but she slaps him when he tries to go further. She then relates that after her own mother, who was poor, died, she went to live with T. C. and his wife. She warns that she is now the only thing left in T. C.'s life and that he will try to hold onto her. At Jackson, Steve's adviser, Professor Megroth, a stuffy but devoted academic, instructs Steve that the ability to examine oneself honestly is a sign of growing up. When another school offers Steve a lot of money to switch schools, Steve refuses to listen. Hausler, whose recent injury has increased his cynicism, is about to accept until Eddie, now the head of public relations for athletics at Jackson, convinces T. C. to increase the amount paid to the top players. Melissa, whom T. C. sent to Mexico to get her away from Steve, returns against his orders and tells Steve she realizes that this is the first time anyone has ever mattered to her. Steve's school work suffers, as a publicity campaign instigated by T. C. keeps him on the road, but his professors give him passing grades. As Steve's junior year begins, he and Melissa declare their love for each other, and Steve learns in a letter from Joey that their father has been ill. During a tough game, Steve's arm is injured from a number of hard tackles. At halftime, the coach has the doctor inject him with novocaine, and Steve remains in the game. In the second half, he does not get up following a hard tackle by three opponents, one of whom later apologizes, saying that $150 was offered if he put Steve out of the game. Later, Steve is disheartened when Whittier refuses to intercede to help a fellow teammate, Francis Clayhorne, also from a working-class family, who is about to be expelled. The doctor diagnoses a shoulder separation and warns Steve he will risk having a bad shoulder for the rest of his life if he continues to play. T. C. tells Steve that he will have a chance to become All-American in his senior year if he plays. Knowing that now he cannot compete academically, Steve continues to play despite suffering hard tackles, until he becomes dazed. He is taken to a hospital, where he confides to Professor Megroth that he now has really looked at himself, and that rather than stay at Jackson and be a "charity case," he wants to leave. As Steve packs, Eddie brings a telegram from Joey saying that Jan died of a heart attack. Melissa wants to go back with Steve and marry him, and he admits that until now he has been ashamed to tell her about his home in the mill town, or his immigrant father. When Melissa tells T. C. that she is going to marry Steve, T. C., who says Steve has nothing to offer her, threatens him with his cane. Melissa separates them and tells Steve to go, but promises to follow the next day. At home, after Joey berates Steve for never making time for their father, Steve knocks his trophies off their shelf and admits to his brother that he quit school and took a beating. He asks Joey for help to get a job so that he can go to night school. Joey puts his hand on Steve's shoulder and proudly calls his brother an "educated man." The phone then rings with news from Melissa that she plans to arrive in the morning. +

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

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