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A college athlete finds his life consumed by football.
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.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 11 Sep 1951|
|Release Date:||1951||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Sidney Buchman Enterprises, Inc., Columbia Pictures Corp.|
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User Ratings & Review
Great movie for high school athletes and college athletes to see! This movie is a classic!
Not just any old day of the week
Jarrod McDonald 2010-05-21
This is a great film. It's probably best viewed after seeing John Derek's other football player role in 'ALL THE KING'S MEN.' He...