"The Spirit of Notre Dame"
There is an oft-quoted myth about ND...
...that we have given permission for only two movies (“Knute Rockne All American” and “Rudy”) to be filmed on campus. I don’t know what the actual number is, but it is not two.
One of the Christmas presents I treated myself to was a 1931 movie entitled “The Spirit of Notre Dame”. It was clearly filmed at Notre Dame. The two most recognizable scenes were in the South Dining Hall and at the Lyons Arch.
The film was dedicated to Knute Rockne, who died a few months before the movie’s release.
There were many parts of this movie which were enjoyable for me, since I’m a sucker for all things Notre Dame and schmaltzy movies.
The story line is about two roommates on the football team. One comes in as a “star” player, from Nowheresville in North Dakota. The other was not even a gridder, having been a track man in high school. The man who plays a Rockne-type coach does a fine job. There is a buffoon of a lineman (played by Andy “Jingles” Devine) who develops a serious illness as a result of a game injury. He is left behind in the hospital in South Bend while the team is playing Army, in Yankee Stadium. The coach calls the hospital and learns that the lineman has taken a turn for the worst. The coach gives the team a “Gipper” half-time speech, telling the team that the player is listening on the radio. The ending of the game should not come as a surprise. There is a subplot between the two roommates which I won’t get into here.
Some of the things I enjoyed were:
The coach nailed the Rockne sarcasm. When asked by a young boy if the Four Horsemen could sign his football, the coach replied: “They should be able to sign their names; they’re seniors now.”
A large group of former Notre Dame players appeared as themselves, including the Four Horsemen, Adam Walsh, and Frank Carrideo.
The two roomies carried trays in the dining hall. Back in those pre-football scholarship days, Notre Dame football players generally worked in the dining hall to help pay for their room and board.
All the students wore suits and ties to the evening meal. Since my Notre Dame graduating class was one of the final years that a jacket and tie were required at dinner, this was enjoyable to watch.
The production values were not great, but the team did use the Notre Dame Shift and it was fun to watch the plays. This was back in the day when the QB was a “Field General” and not a passer. The primary passer and runner would have been the left halfback. The right half back was the blocking back, in the single-wing style offense.
When there was a disagreement with one of the players, he was carried “to the lake”……….in those days, tossing a student in St. Mary’s Lake was the punishment for various and sundry things.
The star of the movie was Lew Ayres.
Here’s a little Lew Ayres oddity with a Capster connection. Ayres was married three times, including once to actress Ginger Rogers. In 1981, I was a supervisor of security at Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural. Ginger Rogers was one of the celebrities who appeared at the various Inaugural Balls, so I spent some time around her. Eight years after Ayres and Rogers divorced, he had an affair with another actress who supposedly ended her marriage, because of her romance with Ayres. This actress, Jane Wyman, dumped her actor-husband, Ronald Reagan, for Ayres.
Andy Devine was the only other actor I knew by name, although the Rockne-figure is one of those guys (J. Farrell MacDonald) that you can’t name but have seen many times before.
Happy New Year and Go Irish!