Cast & Crew
In Fort Worth, Texas, teenaged Ben Hogan works as a caddy at a country club to help his family make ends meet, and one of the club's professional golfers coaches the talented youngster for free. Ben also pursues a romance with Valerie Fox, and as the couple grow to adulthood, they become engaged. One day, Ben shows Valerie a used car he wants to buy, and tells her that he intends to pursue a career in professional golf. Valerie agrees to Ben's plan of joining the tournament circuit for a year, and the young couple begin "following the sun," traveling East to West with golfers who play in various tournaments. As Ben practices for his first tournament in Niagara Falls, Valerie shyly enters the club house where the other "golf widows" relax while their husbands play. Ben fares poorly in the match, because he is unnerved by the gallery of spectators. The match is won by popular player Chuck Williams, who is always ready with a quip to delight the fans. After Chuck's victory, he introduces Ben to influential, mean-spirited reporter Jay Dexter, who takes a dislike to the reserved Ben. As time passes, Ben concentrates on his game and learns to ignore the spectators, while Valerie struggles to stretch their meager funds. In Oakland, the Hogans are down to their last five dollars when Ben enters the last tournament of the season. Finally able to ignore the gallery, Ben ties for sixth place and wins $285, much to Valerie's delight. Over the next few years, Ben's game improves, although his career is interrupted by his military service during World War II. After the war, Ben and Valerie join the golf caravan again, and Ben vies with Chuck for leadership in the Reno Open. Chuck wins, and Ben laments that he cannot be more like Chuck, who is lauded by both the public and Dexter. At the celebration, Ben and Valerie meet Norma, Chuck's new, party-loving wife. By 1948, Ben has become a great champion, although reporters call him "The Texas Iceberg" and "The Mechanical Man" in reaction to his technically perfect yet cold style of play. Ben triumphs over Chuck at Pebble Beach, but both he and Valerie worry about Chuck's alcoholism. At the big tournament in Los Angeles, Ben encourages Chuck to quit drinking, and Chuck confides his fears that Norma will leave him if he is not a winner. Meanwhile, Norma reveals to Valerie that while she prized Chuck's status at the beginning of their marriage, she now loves Chuck for himself alone. As the match begins, Ben endeavors to keep Chuck from drinking, but on the course, continues to play to perfection. Ben wins the tournament, and Dexter cruelly comments on Ben's ability to defeat his best friend. With Dexter's criticism ringing in his ears, Ben drives with Valerie back to Texas. One foggy evening, the Hogans' car is hit by a bus, and Ben is gravely injured. At the hospital, Valerie is informed that Ben's shoulder, legs and pelvis have been badly crushed, and that he needs an operation to tie off some of the veins in his legs to prevent life-threatening embolisms. The surgery, which can be performed best by Dr. John Everett of New Orleans, must be done immediately, and when it appears that Everett cannot arrive in time, Valerie turns to Ben's former commander, Gen. Richardson, for help. Richardson arranges for military transport for Everett, and the surgery is completed successfully. As he recovers, Ben is astonished by the outpouring of well wishes from his fans, and muses that he should have taken his eye off the ball once in a while to look at the people following him. Ben and Valerie are pleased by a visit from Chuck and Norma, who assure them that their marriage has been saved. Although the doctors have predicted that Ben will never walk again, the determined Ben works at his rehabilitation and eventually is back at home practicing his putting. Ben knows that he cannot return to professional golf, however, for the exertion might cause an embolism in his still-damaged legs. Later, Valerie cannot stand to see Ben's disappointment and encourages him to return to the game he loves. Ben enters the Los Angeles Open, where, after three grueling days, he amazes the spectators by tying for first place with Sam Snead. Snead and Ben enter a playoff, but the exhausted Ben loses by a narrow margin. That night, Ben is honored at a banquet hosted by sports commentator Grantland Rice, who states that Ben's legs were not strong enough to carry his courageous heart. Ben thanks the gathered journalists and his beloved Valerie for their support, and later, completes his comeback by winning the 1950 U.S. Open.
Dr. Cary Middlecoff
D. Scotty Chisholm
Alan Dinehart Iii
Frederick Hazlitt Brennan
Harold H. Clifton
Samuel G. Engel
The working title of this film was The Ben Hogan Story. Voice-over narration by Anne Baxter, as "Valerie Hogan," is heard intermittently throughout the picture. Although the onscreen credits state that the film's screenplay was based on a Reader's Digest article by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan, information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, reveals that the article, published in March 1951, was not completed until after Brennan had finished the screenplay, and that the article was based on the screenplay.
The film is based on the life of famed golfer Ben Hogan (1912-1997), who began his career in 1929 at the age of seventeen. As depicted in the film, Hogan was married to his childhood sweetheart, Valerie, for sixty-two years. Hogan's career was interrupted by military service, during which he worked with wounded soldiers, and a near-fatal car crash in 1949. Despite predictions that he would never play again, Hogan regained his much-admired technical prowess on the course and won a total of nine major championships, including four United States Opens. Hogan's successes place him third behind Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus for lifetime victories. One of Hogan's major accomplishments, that of winning three out of four major tournaments in one year, was not equalled until 2000, when Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open, the British Open and the P.G.A. Championship. Other golfers who play themselves in Follow the Sun are Sam Snead, James Demaret, Dr. Cary Middlecoff and Al Demaret. Noted sportswriter Grantland Rice also portrays himself in the picture. Although a November 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that golf pro Lloyd Mangrum would portray himself in the film, his appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
A December 3, 1950 New York Times article reported that Hogan served as technical advisor on the film and coached Glenn Ford, who was himself a proficient amateur golfer. The article also noted that when studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck first became interested in the rights to Hogan's life story, he "was in competition with a combine of Texas cattle and oil men, personal friends of the bantam champion [one of Hogan's nicknames was Bantam Ben, due to his small stature], who had decided they would 'like to do a little something for our Ben.'" According to a February 6, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item, Zanuck originally considered Montgomery Clift for the leading role.
In an August 1950 conference about the script, Zanuck explained to his staff that Hogan's wartime service with wounded soldiers could not be depicted in the film, as "the War Department has requested producers not to show any shots of crippled or wounded soldiers in future pictures," presumably because of the ongoing Korean War. As noted in studio publicity, Hogan's 1950 comeback at the Los Angeles Open was filmed on location at the Riviera Country Club, where Hogan actually played, and featured commentary by D. Scotty Chisholm, who broadcast during the actual tournament. Contemporary sources list the following additional locations used in the film: Fort Worth, TX; Tucson and Phoenix, AZ; and Pebble Beach, Palos Verdes and San Gabriel, CA.
The picture, which was the first feature-length film about a professional golfer, received glowing reviews, several of which compared Follow the Sun favorably to the 1949 M-G-M picture The Stratton Story, about disabled baseball player Gene Stratton. Anne Baxter reprised her role for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story on March 10, 1952, which co-starred Gary Merrill.