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May 20, 2012

Knute Rockne, All American

by Brendan

Been watching Knute Rockne, All American, on Turner Classic Movies, this late afternoon.  It’s famous, among other reasons, for having Ronald Reagan playing George Gipp, which leads to Rockne’s locker room speech in which he says, “Go out and get one for The Gipper.”

What amazed me this time through, though, was what a big deal football was to the times and tides of the nation,

Coach Rockne & “The Gipper”

and what a big deal Notre Dame football was (at least, if the movie was

more-0r-less true to the situation, which I believe it was.  I was thinking,

wow, this  movie comes at ya out of a time warp — and then I realized it was

made in 1940 — that is quite a time warp, isn’t it?

Made in 1940, eh?  Well, then, this requires that I run it through the

thought machine inspired by Robert Ray’s amazing book, A Certain

   Tendency in the American Cinema: 1940-1978. Ray examines only movies

that were in the Variety Top 10 Box Office for the years in question,

reasoning that Top Ten movies were popular because they touched a

nerve, fulfilled a fantasy, etc.) So what was going on in the world,

especially in the U.S., in 1940 that explains the success of Knute Rockne,

 All American?

Well, obviously Americans were gripped by war fear and war fever.  So taking solace in football makes sense, as does taking even more solace in the story of the dying teammate George Gipp inspiring superhuman efforts in future Notre Dame players.  Clearly, 1940 was a time for superhuman efforts, for stories about friendship and fear, for talking about overcoming great odds (fighting the German War Machine) and seizing victory from the jaws of defeat.  (Ray spends a good bit of time discussing Casablanca, which also came out in 1940; which also deals with friendships, love, and more than anything else, circumventing the war by staying in Casablanca.)

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