Harmon of Michigan


1h 6m 1941

Brief Synopsis

Tom Harmon (ol' # 98 for the Michigan Wolverines, husband of actress Elyse Knox and father of Mark Harmon and Kelly Harmon)took a back seat to no one on the football field (except the Minnesota Gophers) or, later, in the broadcast booth, but, on film, he managed to find himself in two of the all-time bad sports movies..."The Spirit of West Point" and "Harmon of Michigan." The latter, if it had been a true-life biography of Tom Harmon, might have made a passable film but after a short prologue, narrated by sports writer Bill Henry who is not the same as actor William Henry, that semi-recaps Harmon's football-playing days at the University of Michigan, it quickly develops into a mess that indicates the director and writers used the technical adviser, Coach Jeff Cravath, only to put plays on the blackboard. Once Harmon,(supposedly playing himself but the character he plays here has more character flaws than the law allows), graduates from Michigan, he marries his college sweetheart Peggy Adams (Anita Louise), turns up his nose at the prospect of playing professional football---a poor-paying and not-that-well respected job in 1941---and starts a vagabond tour of coaching tank-water colleges. Authenicity went out the window when the narration ended, as did any kind of time tracking, as everything that follows seems to happen in a single football season. Tom takes an assistant coach job at a cow-pasture college under Jimmy Wayburn (William Hall) and lasts one day before Wayburn fires him. Then he signs to play for a College All-Star team doing exhibition games against pro teams, but his team-mates, hacked because Tom gets star billing, lay down on him and he gets smacked down hard on every play. One of the leaders willing to let Harmon get slaughtered is old Michigan teammate Forrest Evashevski (playing himself), a life-long friend in real life and Godfather to Mark Harmon and a long-time respected coach at the University of Iowa. Harmon wins the game by himself, but decides this isn't his cup of tea. He hangs around the house a few weeks, then gets a job as an assistant under old-time coach Pop Branch at a college that has three buidings on campus and a football stadium seating 100,000 fans. He helps Pop win a few games (still ticking along in what appears to be the same fall football season), but the alumni at Webster College are tired of losing, fire their coach and hire Harmon away from Pop. Harmon takes over the Webster team in mid-season and becomes the all-time example of a hard-ass coach willing to win at any cost, including installing a screen-pass play that depends on an illegal blcoking scheme---the Flying Wedge---to make it work. His Webster team begins to thump their opponents by large scores, usually leaving the other team battered and bloodied by the use of the illegal blocking scheme. They win four or five games which, based on the writers time scheme, would have them playing 20 games a season in what was then a nine-and-ten game season. Plus, the press and other coaches around and about, are up in arms about Harmon's tatics, but the jerks refereeing the games evidently haven't read the rule book nor the newspapers and throw no penalty flags against his team. Well, one referee does once, but he never officiated nor had lunch in that town again. It, by any reasonable calendar must now be July of the next year in a season that should have ended in December, and hard-case Harmon's team is going up against Pop's team (where Harmon coached earlier in this never-ending season) and Pop drops by and tells Tom he ain't all that fond of Tom's coaching methods, but Tom poo-pahs him off, and then sends his team out and they gleefully dismantle Pop's fair-playing team by 109-0. But Webster's quarterback Freddie Davis (Stanley Brown) suffers a concussion running a play Harmon calls just to run up the score even higher---Harmon evidently didn't read the script because nobody using their own name would want this character perceived

Film Details

Also Known As
The Life of Tom Harmon
Release Date
Sep 11, 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 6m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,814ft

Synopsis

When Tom Harmon, the All-American quarterback from Michigan, graduates from college, he marries his sweetheart Peggy Adams and takes an assistant coaching job at a small college. Failing to get along with Jimmy Wayburn, the new head coach, Tom quits and moves to Chicago. Unable to find another coaching position because it is mid-season, Tom is forced to take a job with a second-rate professional team, earning five dollars per every minute he stays in the game. Although injured, Tom plays valiantly and is noticed by "Pop" Branch, the beloved head coach at Reserve College. Facing the challenge of beating Webster, their major competitor, Pop offers Tom the job of assistant coach in the upcoming season. At the start of the season, Reserve shows unexpected power in the opening games, prompting the Webster alumni to offer Tom a job as coach. Without consulting Peggy, Tom allows Bill Dorgan, an unscrupulous sports agent, to convince him to accept the new job, deeply wounding Pop. Tom's first task at Webster is to find plays that his heavy, poorly coached team can execute. He decides upon the flying wedge, a strategy outlawed because of its danger to players. Employing a variation of the wedge, Tom wins his first game, and although Freddy Davis, the team's quarterback, is injured, Tom devises more bone-crushing formations for the Webster boys. A few days before the big game, Pop implores Tom to stop using the wedge, but Tom ignores him. When Davis is injured again and carried off the field, Peggy, no longer able to tolerate her husband's insensitivity, decides to leave him. When his controversial plays are condemned by the other coaches as well as the Webster alumni, Tom, sobered by the turn of events, resigns and begins to drift around the country. Broke and despondent, he is on the verge of signing with a third-string team when he hears that Pop is taking over the coaching staff at a small Pacific Coast school. Immediately heading West, Tom offers to assist Pop, who warmly welcomes him back. When Peggy learns that her husband has signed with Pop, she hurries West to join them.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Life of Tom Harmon
Release Date
Sep 11, 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 6m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
5,814ft

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was The Life of Tom Harmon. Harmon, who wore the number 98 jersey for the University of Michigan, scored 237 points in his three-year college career. Harmon's ability as a power runner made him one of the finest ball carriers of his time. After playing professional football for the Los Angeles Rams in 1946-47, Harmon became a sports commentator in Detroit, Michigan and then Southern California, and was appointed Sports Director of the Columbia Pacific Network. Harmon reported live on major sporting events for all the networks and was the voice of the Los Angeles Rams football games until his death in 1990. Harmon was married to actress Elysee Knox and was the father of actor Mark Harmon. At the film's opening, sports commentator Bill Henry describes Harmon's college career and shows newsreel footage of some of his plays. Radio commentators Ken Niles, Tom Hanlon, Wendell Niles and Sam Baller all portray themselves in the film. Forest Evashevski, who also plays himself, was Harmon's teammate at Michigan. This was the first of three films produced by Columbia based on the lives of college football stars. Other pictures in the series were Smith of Minnesota and The Spirit of Stanford (see below).