The Band Plays On


1h 26m 1934
The Band Plays On

Brief Synopsis

Four street kids mend their ways when they take up football.

Film Details

Also Known As
Backfield
Genre
Drama
Sports
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Dec 21, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Gravy Game" by Harry A. Stuhldreher and W. Thorton Martin in The Saturday Evening Post (21 Oct 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

After they are caught stealing an automobile, young Tony Ferrara, Clarence "Stuffy" Wilson, Mike O'Brien and Julius "Rosy" Rosenberg are sent by a judge to Howard "Howdy" Hardy, the Pacific University football coach who also instructs and counsels troubled youth. Although at first cocky and independent, the boys are humbled on the football field and learn the importance of team work from the devoted Howdy. Under Howdy's tutelage, the boys become high school stars, earning the nickname "Hardy's Bombers," and then enroll at Pacific. There, the Bombers lead the university's football team to repeated victories while also working hard to earn their college degrees. In spite of a long-lived, gentle romantic rivalry between Tony and Stuffy over Mike's pretty sister Kitty, who hopes to marry Tony after graduation, the Bombers room together and remain the closest of friends. Consequently, when Mike flunks his physics class and is threatened with suspension from the team, his fellow Bombers, as well as Kitty and Angelo, a football-crazy tailor, help him to retake the final exam and pass the course. Kitty also helps the Bombers to resist the financial temptations of her older brother Joe, an unscrupulous promoter who wants the boys to leave college and join professional football. Although aware of Kitty's disapproval, the egotistical Tony dines with Joe one night and is seen by Howdy. After the next football practice, Howdy announces that another player will start in Tony's position, and furious at being benched, Tony decides to sign up with Joe. Just before the start of the game, however, the other Bombers and Angelo learn of Tony's move and rush to stop him from signing Joe's contract. On the way, Stuffy and Angelo are involved in an automobile accident in which Stuffy is seriously injured. Unaware of Stuffy's accident, Howdy reprimands Mike and Rosy for being late for the game, causing them to quit the team in disgust. After Kitty upbraids him for his selfish immaturity, a guilt-ridden Tony encourages Stuffy, who is in traction with a severely fractured leg, to pursue Kitty, while at the same time, discouraging her from resuming their romance. Without the Bombers, Pacific loses its remaining games, and Howdy is pressured by the college to bring his proteges back to the team. Determined to teach the Bombers a lesson in sportsmanship, however, Howdy refuses to ask them back, but lies to Stuffy that all is well. When Stuffy, who has been told that he will never play football again, finally is released from the hospital, he learns about the riff with Howdy and denounces his friends as ungrateful. Shamed when they hear that Howdy paid all of Stuffy's medical bills, Mike, Tony and Rosy decide to return to the team in the fall and get in shape by working in a lumber camp. After a tough but rewarding summer, the three Bombers make Howdy's team but are kept on the bench during the games. Toward the end of a big game, which Pacific is losing by seven points, Tony begs Howdy to put the Bombers in, and convinced that their motives are unselfish, Howdy relents. Although the Bombers are unable to score the tying point, Howdy is satisfied that they have matured and that Tony finally understands the importance of team work. Seeing Kitty's ecstatic reactions to Tony's play, Stuffy then sacrifices his own feelings and encourages Tony to reunite with his childhood sweetheart.

Film Details

Also Known As
Backfield
Genre
Drama
Sports
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Dec 21, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Gravy Game" by Harry A. Stuhldreher and W. Thorton Martin in The Saturday Evening Post (21 Oct 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

The Band Plays On


With its combination of high-impact action and youthful players, football has always been a natural choice for the movies, as in this MGM programmer. The story of four city toughs who find their calling when a judge hands them over to college football coach Preston Foster for a little discipline provided a showcase for young studio leading man Robert Young. As the leader of a group dubbed the Bombers, he's tempted to break training to bet on their games and even considers dropping out of college to go pro (at the urging of a member's brother, played by Ted Healey, founder of The Three Stooges). He even finds romance with pretty young Betty Furness. The Bombers were loosely modeled on the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, the 1924 team's legendary backfield. That's not surprising, as one of the film's sources was "The Gravy Game," a story co-written by Horseman Harry Stuhldreher. The film also features a surprisingly serious turn by Stu Erwin as the Bomber who's sidelined by an injury and nurses a crush on Furness. Two years later, he would win an OscarĀ® nomination for a more characteristically comic turn as a hick who becomes a college football star in Pigskin Parade (1936).

By Frank Miller
The Band Plays On

The Band Plays On

With its combination of high-impact action and youthful players, football has always been a natural choice for the movies, as in this MGM programmer. The story of four city toughs who find their calling when a judge hands them over to college football coach Preston Foster for a little discipline provided a showcase for young studio leading man Robert Young. As the leader of a group dubbed the Bombers, he's tempted to break training to bet on their games and even considers dropping out of college to go pro (at the urging of a member's brother, played by Ted Healey, founder of The Three Stooges). He even finds romance with pretty young Betty Furness. The Bombers were loosely modeled on the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, the 1924 team's legendary backfield. That's not surprising, as one of the film's sources was "The Gravy Game," a story co-written by Horseman Harry Stuhldreher. The film also features a surprisingly serious turn by Stu Erwin as the Bomber who's sidelined by an injury and nurses a crush on Furness. Two years later, he would win an OscarĀ® nomination for a more characteristically comic turn as a hick who becomes a college football star in Pigskin Parade (1936). By Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The title of Byron Morgan and J. Robert Bren's original screen story was "Backfield," which also was a working title of the film. Another working title was Kid from College. Reviewers noted the resemblance between the film's "Hardy's Bombers" and the "Four Horsemen," real-life football players from Notre Dame. Hector Sarno was listed in Hollywood Reporter production charts as a cast member, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed.