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Several Hollywood studios made low-budget films about hockey in the mid-1930s, and King of Hockey (1936) was Warner Bros.' entry in the competition. Dick Purcell stars as Gabby Dugan, an egotistical hockey star who is accused of taking money from racketeers to shave points during a crucial game. Like many another cocky cinematic sports hero before and since, Gabby learns the value of integrity and humility -- this time thanks to an injury on the ice that leads to temporary blindness.
Costarring are Anne Nagel as the estranged sweetheart whose love Gabby reclaims after finding redemption, and Wayne Morris as the teammate whose blow to Gabby's skull causes the hero to lose his sight. Also on hand are juvenile actress Ann Gillis and ultimate dumb blonde Marie Wilson, a decade away from her success in radio, television and feature films as "My Friend Irma." Hockey players from University of Southern California and Loyola University also appear in the film, lending considerable credibility to the action.
Purcell, a natural for his role because he had played hockey at Fordham University, had entered films two years earlier and was top-billed for the first time in King of Hockey. He played many rugged roles, both heroes and villains, until his death in 1944. Purcell succumbed to a heart attack in his late 30s after playing a round on the golf course.
Producer: Bryan Foy
Director: Noel M. Smith
Screenplay: George Bricker
Cinematography: Lewis William O'Connell
Original Music: Howard Jackson, M.K. Jerome (both uncredited)
Editing: Harold McLernon
Art Director: Carl Jules Weyl
Principal Cast: Dick Purcell (Gabby Dugan), Anne Nagel (Kathleen O'Rourke), Marie Wilson (Elsie), Wayne Morris (Jumbo Mullins), George E. Stone (Nick Torga), Ann Gillis (Peggy O'Rourke).
by Roger Fristoe