"I've decided to take up coaching as my life work," Knute Rockne says. Coach he does, revolutionizing football with his strategies, winning close to 90 percent of his games, and helping establish the University of Notre Da... more »me's Fighting Irish as a gridiron powerhouse. But victories alone do not mean success to Rockne. He wants to shape his players into responsible and honorable men. This famed sports biopic combines a passion for the game (and footage of actual Notre Dame contests) with two superb performances: Pat O'Brien in the title role and Ronald Reagan as George Gipp, the gifted but doomed halfback whose deathbed plea is "win just one for the Gipper." The line remains one of cinema's most memorable. And for the rest of his life, Reagan would often be called the Gipper.« less
Rebekah M. (PossumAnnie) from JOPLIN, MO Reviewed on 2/20/2010...
I really enjoyed watching this movie. I found it quite interesting as well as enjoyable. We are keeping this one as we want to watch it over again. Recomended.
Pat O'Brien asks Notre Dame to win one for Ronald Reagan
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ronald Reagan might have gotten the nickname of the "Gipper" from this 1940 bio-pic of legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne, but it was veteran character actor Pat O'Brien who had the role of a lifetime in the lead. James Cagney had lobbied hard for the role, but when the actor signed a petition supporting the Republican (and anti-Catholic) government in the Spanish Civil War, Notre Dame refused to okay him for the part. This was the first of only two movies ever filmed on the campus in South Bend, and if you do know that the other one was "Rudy" you should at least have been able to guess it had to be that one.
"Knute Rockne All American", which was added to the National Film Registry in 1997, is a fairly standard bio-pic, evincing the almost documentary style that was standard at the time. We see how the young Rockne (played by Johnny Sheffield, a.k.a. Boy in the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies) learned to love football, revolutionized the game with the forward pass, and coached his alma mater to glory with the Four Horsemen and George Gipp. The result is a long series of episodes from Rockne's life that have varying degrees of appeal, such as when he picks up the idea for his backfield shift from watching chorus girls dance and experiments with the idea using his wife and their dinner guests.
Lots of footage of actual Notre Dame games are worked into the film, although I have no way of knowing if any of it is of the actual games being portrayed (I would be curious to know). O'Brien's performance seems a tad wooden, but if you have ever seen actual film clips of Rockne you know he is in the ballpark. A lot of the charm of this film comes from the ethos of the original Rockne, an American legend who was probably the first famous victim of an airplane crash. The result is not great, but certainly compelling (plus we all learn the correct pronunciation of his name as being Ka-Nute).
Reagan's supporting role is deservedly memorable. That same year he would get to play third banana George Armstrong Custer to Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland in "The Santa Fe Trail" and would provide his best performance in "King's Row" before military service in World War II effectively derailed his acting momentum and ultimately set his life on a different path.
Final Note: While there is little doubt that Rockne invented the forward pass, there is debate over one aspect of this film. In his first scene as George Gipp, Reagan is sitting around doing nothing when Rockne orders him to go in at halfback to play against the varsity and run the ball. Gipp asks "How far?" and proceeds to run it back all the way. After crossing the goal line he bounces the ball off the endzone, instead of laying it down for the "touchdown." An argument has been made that this was the first spike in the history of football. At least it is the first "recorded" spike. Did the current tradition of choreographed celebrations all stem from what Ronald Reagan did in this 1940 film? You decide if that is yet another part of the Reagan legacy that is being reconsidered this week."
DATED BUT FUN SPORTS BIOGRAPHY
Tim Janson | Michigan | 03/31/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film tells the tale of the legendary Knute Rockne who coached football at Notre Dame from 1918 to 1930, losing just 12 games and winning six national championships. Rockne was tragically killed in a plane crash in Kansas on March 31st, 1931. He as only 43 years of age. Knute was known as one of the most innovative and charismatic coaches of his era. He was the first football coach to initiate intersectional rivalries and build a national schedule. Knute is well known for coaching the most dazzling, dramatic, idolized athlete of all time, George "Gipper" Gipp, played in the film by the late President Ronald Reagan. Gipp's running, passing, kicking and leadership lifted Notre Dame to fame. George Gipp became Notre Dame's first All-American and the famous subject of Rockne's motivating pre-game speech, "Win one for the Gipper."
The role of Rockne would fall to Pat O' Brien, a veteran star who had been in such films as "Angels with Dirty Faces" "The Fighting 69th" and "San Quentin" it was not the first time O' Brien had played a football coach either. In 1933 he starred in a film called "College Coach". O' Brien did a good job in mimmicking the voice and mannerisms of the legendary coach. Of course the most famous scene in the film is O' Brien giving his famous "Win one for the Gipper" speech after Gipp passed away tragically. It is the most well known sports pep talk in history and was used by Reagan himself during the 1988 Presidential campaign.
The movie did a good job of displaying football action although it is a very different game than we see today. Rockne actually pioneered many of the offensive schemes seen today with men in motion and backfield alignments.
Donald Crisp turns in a fine performance as Father Callahan and there's even the legendary four horseman in the film as well. The film is certainly dated by today's standards but it's a well done sports biography at a time when historical accuracy was not always important. "
A worthy addition to any classic film library
ladyothelake | Long Island | 07/10/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think the true testament to this movie's appeal is that it is still watchable after more than 60 years to both hard-core football fans and those(me)who can't tell a bunt from a punt. "Knute Rockne, All American" is based on the life of one of Notre Dame University's most ingenious and beloved coaches. The movie follows Rockne's early beginnings from his family's emigration to America, to his days as a Notre Dame student,his career as coach, and his tragic demise.It's an inspiring movie tribute about football's evolution and Notre Dame's struggle to establish itself out of mid-western obscurity; but it is primarily about a man. A man who was a mentor to the many he coached and a revolutionary of the sport of football. By the end of the movie I came to have a deep respect for Knute Rockne as a man of intellect, passion and integrity.Pat O'Brien does a stirring portrayal of Rockne. My one complaint regarding his performance is that he is too mature-looking to portray Rockne during his early years and perhaps they should have had another actor for those scenes. Another little gem is seeing a young Ronald Reagan as the ill-fated George Gipp. His deathbed scene is one of the most touching moments in the whole movie.I found the action sequences a little boring and homogenous, (perhaps followers of football will feel differently) but it does not distract from the rest of the movie. My only other complaint is the soundtrack, which seems to consist of the Notre Dame fight song played over and over again in 115 different renditions.It's worth noting that although the cover is colorized the movie is in black and white."
Breathtaking acting from Pat O'Brien.
email@example.com | Voss, Norway | 11/22/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen this movie a couple of time now. And the acting of Pat O'Brian is just amazing. O'Brien is so good, and hear him talk in the movie is just as to hear my far distant relative Rockne himself. Brings me a lot of pride and thought of who was he, Knute Rockne...."
Knute Rockne 3/4/88 - 3/31/31
Eddie Cochran 25 | Denver, CO | 12/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Norwegian immigrant post office worker attended Notre Dame and popularized the forward pass with QB/roommate Gus Dorais-to-Rockne passes in the 35-13 upset of Army in 1913 as Ike watched from the West Point bench due to a knee injury from jumping off a galloping horse. In the movie "The Long Gray Line" Ike can be seen with his crutches during this game. Later Rockne the chemistry scholar took over as ND head coach attaining five undefeated/untied teams and 6 championships in 1919 1920 1924 1927 1929 1930. Gipp played 4 seasons and was ND's 1st All-American he died 12/14/20 from pneumonia related infection: " I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy." In 1928 Rockne used the story to rally his team to an underdog victory over the undefeated Army team of 1928. The 4 Horsemen played from 1922-24, it was on 10/18/24 after Notre Dame's 13-7 upset victory over a strong Army team: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below." After the team arrived back in South Bend they posed, dressed in their uniforms on the backs of 4 horses from a livery stable. They played at a time when there were no separate offensive and defensive teams. All players had to play both sides. Once a player left the field, he could not come back into the game. A 27-10 win over Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl gave Rockne and Notre Dame the national championship and a perfect 10-0 record. Notre Dame had lost only two games combined in the 1922 and 1923 seasons. Both losses came against the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln before packed houses. Reagan plays George Gipp. Get the Reagan box set which contains 4 other excellent movies, notably Kings Row (Where's the rest of me?) and my favorite "The Winning Team" (the Grover Cleveland Alexander Story) in which he portrays the tragic Nebraska WWI epileptic vet who brought the first of 10 World Series championships to the Cardinals by winning games 2 and 6 in 1926 and saving game 7 against Babe Ruth's Yankees. Rockne's plane crash was due to stressed plywood and resulted in an overhaul of standards for new transport aircraft and a competition that eventually resulted in the all-metal Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2."