The Guy Who Came Back


1h 31m 1951

Brief Synopsis

Former football star Harry Joplin is down on his luck, both in his career and in his married life. He seems convinced of his own unworthiness, but a chance to play in a charity football game helps him see his life in a new light.

Film Details

Also Known As
Humpty Dumpty, Just One More Chance, The Guy Who Sank the Navy, The Man Who Sank the Navy
Release Date
Jul 1951
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 22 Jun 1951
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles--Wrigley Field, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Man Who Sank the Navy" by William Fay in The Saturday Evening Post (17 Oct 1942).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

During World War II, former football star "Hurricane" Harry Joplin is deeply disappointed when an old ankle injury prevents him from enlisting in the Navy. Capt. Charlie Shallock urges Harry to leave New York City to work in a San Francisco shipbuilding yard, and Harry reluctantly agrees. Harry then goes to the nightclub owned by his pal, onetime boxing champion Boots Mullins, and meets his paramour, Dee Shane. Harry confesses to Dee that he bumped into his wife Kathy, from whom he is separated, and that she wants him to visit her that evening to see their son Willy. Dee allows Harry to break their date, but warns him that "when you lose something, it stays lost." Harry then muses about the breakup of his marriage: In September 1940, Harry, Kathy and Willy live in their country home outside New York. Harry is convalescing after an ankle injury and is working hard to get back into shape, while Kathy supports the family. Harry's mother disapproves of Kathy's having to work, but Harry reassures her that the New York Titans will be sending him a new contract soon. Willy and Harry dote on each other, and Harry enjoys teaching his son about the game he loves. Kathy is concerned about Harry's immaturity but is thrilled when a letter from the Titans finally arrives. Much to Harry's dismay, however, the letter offers him a coaching job rather than a playing contract, which Harry stubbornly refuses. The following year, the family suffers both financially and emotionally, especially when sports columnist Fred O'Mara lambasts the still unemployed Harry in his column, calling him a "whale belly." Willy is crushed, and so Harry, still believing that he can play, asks coach Joe Demarcus to allow him to work out with the Titans. By the end of the day, however, Demarcus bluntly informs the middle-aged, flabby Harry that he has lost the magic that makes a great player. Dejected, Harry goes to Boots's nightclub, where he meets the beautiful Dee for the first time. Trying to impress Dee, Harry regales the appreciative patrons with one of his famous gridiron stories. Dee follows Harry as he leaves and, slipping into his taxi, tells the driver to take them to her apartment. There, Dee tells Harry that he should become an entertainer and emcee like Jack Dempsey or Maxie Rosenbloom. Won over by Dee's enthusiasm and sympathy, Harry rehearses endlessly, despite Kathy's misgivings. Finally, jealous of Dee and worried that Harry will humiliate himself, Kathy begs him to quit, but Harry insists that he will be a sensation. During his opening night, however, Harry is a painful flop and goes on a three-day drinking binge. Gordon Towne, the Joplins' friend, locates Harry and brings him home, and although Dee accompanies them to assure Kathy that Harry has not been with her, Kathy is heartbroken by Harry's irresponsibility and asks him to move out. Back in the bar, Harry's reminiscences end, and Dee warns him that he is endangering their relationship by living in the past. Harry then goes to Kathy's apartment, where she flirts with him. Harry is dismayed to learn that Kathy and Gordon have been dating, and attempts to impress Willy by claiming to have a top-secret government job in San Francisco. Admitting that she misses him, Kathy asks Harry to return home, but he insists that he is not worthy of her love. When Gordon arrives, Harry tells him that he will divorce Kathy so that they can marry. Although Gordon is uncertain, Harry assures him that it would be best for Kathy and Willy, and Gordon, who has loved Kathy for years, agrees. Soon after, Kathy visits Dee and asks her to convince Harry to pursue a coaching job, as he cannot live without football. Dee bitterly declares that she will never allow Harry to return to football, and is surprised when Kathy reveals that Harry is about to leave for San Francisco. After Kathy departs, Dee tracks Harry to the arena where he has been working as a wrestler, and he tells her that she cannot accompany him to the West Coast. Realizing that Harry will always love Kathy, Dee calls her and tells her where Harry is. Kathy arrives for that evening's bout, and Dee assures her that she can "handle" Demarcus for her. After the match, Kathy begs Harry to return to the family and to ask Demarcus for a coaching job, for Willy's sake. Harry decides instead to ask Demarcus for a job as a player, and thanks to Dee's persuasion, Demarcus reluctantly agrees. Soon after, the ragtag Titans, decimated by the wartime man shortage, are competing against the superior Navy team. Kathy and a delighted Willy are in the audience, and are horrified when, during his first play, Harry is knocked unconscious. Harry comes to at the end of the first half, and although Demarcus announces that his comeback is over, Harry insists on sitting on the bench so that Willy will not be disappointed. During the last five minutes of the game, with all of the other players injured, Demarcus is forced to put Harry back on the field, and Harry eventually makes a touchdown, despite being tackled numerous times. The Titans win a surprising victory, thanks to Harry's perseverance, and Demarcus offers Harry a new playing contract. Realizing his playing days are over, Harry asks for a coaching job instead, but is stunned when an admiral offers to enlist him in the Navy, stating: "It isn't every Navy that can acquire the ship that sinks it." Harry then humbly asks Kathy if she still wants him, and the reunited couple walk out of the locker room with Willy.

Film Details

Also Known As
Humpty Dumpty, Just One More Chance, The Guy Who Sank the Navy, The Man Who Sank the Navy
Release Date
Jul 1951
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 22 Jun 1951
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles--Wrigley Field, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Man Who Sank the Navy" by William Fay in The Saturday Evening Post (17 Oct 1942).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working titles of this film were The Man Who Sank the Navy, The Guy Who Sank the Navy, Just One More Chance and Humpty Dumpty. William Fay's short story was included in the anthology The Saturday Evening Post Sport Stories (New York, 1949). According to a August 10, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, when Twentieth Century-Fox purchased Fay's story, he was under consideration to write the film's screenplay. Although a November 29, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that James Millican was being tested for a role, it is unlikely that he appeared in the released picture. Other Hollywood Reporter news items note that some scenes were filmed on location at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, CA, and that Kathleen Hughes had been added to the cast, although her appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Filming of the football sequences had to be postponed after star Paul Douglas broke two ribs during a rehearsal, according to November and December 1950 Hollywood Reporter news items.