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TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY (director: Michael Curtiz; screenwriters: Melville Shavelson/Jack Rose/from a story by Robert Hardy Andrews & Douglas Morrow; cinematographer: Archie Stout; editor: Owen Marks; music: Max Steiner; cast: John Wayne (Steve Aloysius Williams), Donna Reed (Alice Singleton), Charles Coburn (Father Burke), Tom Tully (Father Malone), Sherry Jackson (Carole Williams), Marie Windsor (Anne McCormick), Tom Helmore (Harold McCormick), Leif Erickson (Father Provincial), Douglas Spencer (Procurator), Chuck Connors (Stan Schwegler), James Flavin (Buck Holman, coach), Lester Matthews (Cardinal O’Shea); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Melville Shavelson; Warner Brothers; 1953)
“It’s the kind of pic you expect Pat O’Brien to be in.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A by-the-numbers sports drama directed by Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”). It pulls just about every cheap trick in the book to get a laugh or make you like it. It’s based on a story by Robert Hardy Andrews and Douglas Morrow, and it’s authored by Melville Shavelson and Jack Rose. Serves up large dollops of sentimentality, religion and bogus moral lessons. It’s the kind of pic you expect Pat O’Brien to be in.

Tiny fictional College of St. Anthony in NYC will close unless it raises $170,000 for the next semester. The elderly dedicated rector Father Burke (Charles Coburn) feels the only way to raise the amount is through football. Steve Williams (John Wayne) was once a great football player and coach, but got kicked out of several top college coaching jobs for nonconformity to the rules and is now a down-and-out bookie. Divorced from his haughty wife Anne (Marie Windsor), who is now married to a wealthy cold fish of a businessman Harold McCormick (Tom Helmore), Steve is raising their feisty 12-year-old tomboy daughter Carole (Sherry Jackson) with lots of love. Out of spite, not because she loves Carole, Anne has filed for child custody and a young prim Alice Singleton (Donna Reed) is the Children’s Court officer asked to file a report on the case. When Father Burke comes calling on Steve in the poolhall he hangs out in, the bitter Steve decides to accept as he sees this relocation move to a more acceptable environment as giving him a better chance to retain custody of Carole. Father Burke gives Steve a free hand in running the football program and after taking a look at the team he exclaims that they “couldn’t whip Vassar at tiddlywinks.” Steve’s motto is “Winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing,” therefore he uses methods not quite above board to recruit ringers. After their first game where they upset in a romp a powerhouse west coast team, it comes to Father Burke’s attention that the players recruited had their school records altered and there were many other improprieties. Father Burke cancels the remaining games and fires Steve, which adds another black mark against Steve when the custody battle goes to court.

If you’re a betting man lay the odds that everything will work out just fine for Steve, Carole, Father Burke and the college, and you’ll have enough dough to bet on all those other “big moments” in similar themed formulaic charmer melodramas that aim only to delight and not tax anyone’s brain.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”