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"Fit as a Fiddle," the Arthur Freed/Al Hoffman/Al Goodhart song, is destined to be remembered as a high-energy singing/dancing duet by Gene Kelly and Donald OConnor to demonstrate their characters' vaudeville days in Singin' in the Rain (1952). But the tune was introduced in a 1932 stage revue, "George White's Musical Hall Varieties," and first performed on film in Warner Bros.' College Coach (1933), starring Dick Powell as a singing football player.
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 OBrien (Coach Gore), Ann Dvorak (Claire Gore), Arthur Byron (Dr. Phillip Sargent), Lyle Talbot (Herbert "Buck" Weaver).
By Roger Fristoe