In Herbs Archive this month, we reprint a superb chapter from
his book Notre Dame Odyssey about the various attempts to make
a feature film on the life of George Gipp.
Pat O'Brien as Rockne and Ronald Reagan
as Gipp in the
Warner Bros film Knute Rockne All American.
The January 25, 1941, edition of Motion Picture Herald, under
the heading 1940-41 Feature Service Data, to aid showmen in
checking, production numbers, running time, round table exploitation,
audience classification, dates and page numbers of Herald reviews,
ran this item:
Knute Rockne-All American (Warner Bros.)
Release Date October 5, 1940
Production No. 502
Running Time 98 Minutes
Reviewed October 12,1940, Page 46
Legion of Decency Rating--Class A- I
Round Table Exploitation-Sept. 28, '40, Page 147; Oct. 19, '40, Pages 67,
7 1; Oct. 26, '40, Page 52; leading to Jan. 11, '41 , Pages 57, 58.
Feature Release Credits for Knute Rockne--All American included
Warner as Distributor, the complete cast, Jack L. Warner and Hal B. Wallis
as Producers, Robert Fellows as Associate Producer, Lloyd Bacon as
Director, Screenplay by Robert Buckner, Leo F. Forbstein as Musical
Director, and more, and the film was listed with, among others,
KING OF THE LUMBERJACKS, with John Payne and Gloria Dickson; KIT CARSON,
with Jon Hall, Dana Andrews, Ward Bond and Lynn Bari; and KITTY FOYLE,
with Ginger Rogers and Dennis Morgan.
This reprint of an article from the FILM DAILY YEAR BOOK, 1941, under the
title "Warner's Campaign on
KNUTE ROCKNE-ALL AMERICAN," tells it all:
Famed for their trail-blazing exploits in the field of motion picture
ballyhoo with such
outstanding campaigns as "The 42nd Street Special,"
"Virginia City," "Dodge City"
and "Fighting 69th," among others, to their credit, Warner Bros.
garnered new laurels
last year with one of the most extensive campaigns of them all-that on
All American." Starting several months before release of the feature,
gathered national momentum up to the climax of its four-theater world
South Bend, Indiana, on October 4. From every angle, this ballyhoo was one
most successful of its type ever staged, with national newspaper and radio
public interest, magazine breaks and newsreel coverage bringing news of
activities to every comer of the land.
The campaign, which was supervised by Charles Einfeld, Warner advertising
publicity director, began to take shape in July when Mayor Jesse I. Pavey
Bend journeyed to Hollywood to ask Harry M. Warner and Jack L. Warner to
schedule the world premiere in his city. A crew of technicians and actors
Pat O'Brien had already been to the University city where
"on-the-spot" scenes for the
film were "shot. "
After the decision to hold the premiere at the locale of Rockne's greatest
Einfeld's publicity forces set the wires humming with preliminary details
opening. Arthur Haley, Notre Dame business manager, Mayor Pavey and Father
Cavanaugh, vice-president of Notre Dame, traveled to the west coast amidst
fanfare to meet with Harry M. Warner, Jack L. Warner and Charles Einfeld
plans. A special information and arrangements unit was set up at the
Oliver Hotel in
This group began to function during the first week in September, when a
Knute Rockne Week organization was set up with headquarters in South Bend.
entire promotional campaign centered around National Knute Rockne Week
was celebrated September 29--October 5 inclusive, with the four-theater
Premiere of "Knute Rockne-All American" on October 4, as the
climax of the events.
The premiere then became truly national in scope. Governor M. Clifford
Indiana issued an official proclamation designating the September
period as National Knute Rockne Week in Indiana and dispatched letters
Governors of all other states to issue similar proclamations. Mrs. Bonnie
received the proclamation at the State House in Indianapolis. During the
weeks before the premiere, proclamations recognizing Knute Rockne Week
issued by the following Governors: Fred P. Cone, Florida; E. D. Rivers,
late Henry L. Homer, Illinois; George A. Wilson, Iowa; Payne Ratner,
Houston Jones, Louisiana; Leverett Saltonstall, Mass.; Herbert H. Lehman,
York; J.A. Rinehart, acting Governor of Oklahoma; Prentice Cooper,
Clarence E. Martin, Washington and Harry Moore of New Jersey.
After weeks of high-powered publicity and exploitation engineered from
New York and South Bend, two "South Bend Specials" carrying over
including Hollywood stars, newspapermen, celebrities and Warner Bros.
from Los Angeles and New York, the two sections meeting in Chicago where
joined forces and proceeded to South Bend. Headed by Charles Einfeld, the
delegation included: Mr. and Mrs. Donald Crisp, Peggy Diggins, Lucille
Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hope, Rosemary Lane, Mrs. Pat O'Brien, Sr., Mr. and Mrs.
O'Brien, Ronald Reagan, Irene Rich, Charles Ruggles, Jane Wyman, Gale
Anita Louise, Ricardo Cortez and Bruce Cabot.
Mort Blumenstock headed the Eastern group which included Postmaster
Frank C. Walker and wife; Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., who represented the
of the United States on the junket; Rudy Vallee; Owen Davis, Jr., who
Dorais in the film; Aben Kandel, author of "City For Conquest";
Wally Butterworth and
Parks Johnson of the Vox Pop program; Willie Howard and newspaperrnen from
Trebling the University town's regular population of 101,000 inhabitants,
people traveled into South Bend to participate in the festivities. The
exceeded any ever accorded the famed Notre Dame University football mentor
hours of his greatest triumphs. Thousands journeyed from towns and cities
away as 300 miles to pay tribute to the memory of Rockne.
The streets were jammed with thousands of people, making the flow of
virtually impossible. All hotels were filled to capacity and many local
their spare rooms to accommodate as much of the overflow population as
The town was thoroughly bantered with likenesses of Rockne and notices
Knute Rockne Week and the Warner premiere.
When the special arrived in South Bend, it was greeted by a wildly
while two bands played the Notre Dame Victory March. Mayor Pavey had set
the day as a civic holiday, and greeted the Warner contingents from the
platform. The entire town cooperated to the fullest. Leading merchants and
banded all their facilities. The town had the appearance of being under
with hundreds of policemen and state troopers attempting to keep order.
Escorted by motorcycle policemen, the party pushed through the crowds at
station and went to the Oliver Hotel headquarters. The Vox Pop program
regular broadcast over the CBS network with Wally Butterworth and Parks
conducting as usual, from the lobby of the Hotel, with the stars as
That evening the stars and celebrities attended the gala banquet in the
Dining Hall. Bob Hope was master of ceremonies of the proceedings. Among
speakers on this program were Pat O'Brien, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., who
letter from the President to Mrs. Bonnie Rockne, Father O'Donnell,
president of Notre
Dame University, Postmaster General Frank C. Walker, and many other
With Governors in all parts of the country lending their support, Notre
Clubs set up Knute Rockne Week dinners to take place that evening,
with the key affair held in South Bend. Along the lines of the
"Fighting 69th" dinners,
the South Bend affair was broadcast over a Mutual hookup and piped into
affairs over the country. Over 50 of these affairs were held. Their great
indicated by the reams of publicity breaks that poured into the clipping
set up by Warners to keep tab on the progress of the ballyhoo.
On Friday, October 4, the stars, guests, officials and press attended the
luncheon at the South Bend Country Club. In the evening, the Kate Smith
was aired from John Adams High School in South Bend. Miss Smith had
her entire troupe to the site of National Knute Rockne Week activities,
her program to the premiere. It was broadcast over the coast-to-coast
network. Mrs. Rockne, the Notre Dame Band and choir participated in the
as did Pat O'Brien, Gale Page, Ronald Reagan and Donald Crisp who took
part in a
radio adaptation of scenes from the Warner film. In addition to her Friday
program, Kate Smith gave six daily newscasts from South Bend on her
over the entire Columbia network.
Following the broadcast came the climax of the week's events-the
Premiere of "Knute Rockne-All American". The Colfax, Granada,
State and Palace
Theaters each screened the feature to packed houses-The tickets scaled at
$ 1.10 for
orchestra and $1.65 for mezzanine were sold out within the first week of
Thousands stood outside the four theaters hailing the personal appearances
Hollywood stars and celebrities who appeared at each showing. Following
screenings there was a Knute Rockne Premiere Grand Ball at the Palais
attended by all stars, guests and officials.
On October 5, Pat O'Brien, Gale Page, Ronald Reagan, Donald Crisp and Mrs.
Rockne visited the Knute Rockne grave where ceremonies were conducted and
In the afternoon the entire group went to the Notre Dame Stadium for the
between Notre Dame and The College of the Pacific, coached by Alonzo Stagg,
also appeared in the "Rockne" film. Between halves of the game,
the stars present
paid tribute to Rockne on the stadium field, the ceremonies being
broadcast over the
Mutual Coast-to-Coast Network, immediately following the World Series
thus assuring a listening audience of millions. The 55,000 seats of the
huge stadium were packed, with disappointed thousands waiting outside the
throughout the game. It was the largest crowd ever to attend an opening
game at this stadium.
The national ballyhoo for the feature did not end with the world premiere.
All told there
were 33 radio programs devoted to "Knute Rockne" preceding and
subsequent to the
opening. Many cities declared local Knute Rockne Week to coincide with the
playdate of the film.
That was more than fifty years ago and Notre Dame is still exploiting
"Knute Rockne-All American". It is still being shown to all
incoming freshmen as part of their orientation. It is still considered THE
representative film and, for the most part, any attempts at a more modem,
more "adult" production of a screenplay about Rockne and Gipp
and the relationship between the two has been thwarted by University
Going back less than fifteen years, I have been witness to a half dozen
projects, reaching varying levels of progress, involving the writing and
producing of George Gipp scripts. The most recent of these projects
involved Jason Miller of "Exorcist" fame, winner of a Pulitzer
Prize for his Broadway play, THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON.
According to an article in the Scranton, Pa., SUNDAY TIMES, March 5, 1989,
Gipp is a favorite subject with Miller-Gipp and Notre Dame football-and
the Scranton-born actor, playwright, screen writer wanted to take a fresh
look at both in a movie he hoped to write for Columbia Pictures. His son,
Jason, Jr., would play the role of Gipp.
According to Miller, "George Gipp was a very complex man...He was
filled with self-doubts and anxiety ... He was an enigma." According
to the author of the article, "Gipp was a gifted player, the very
best of his time and, some feel, the greatest ever. He could do anything
and do it exceptionally well. He passed. He ran. He kicked. People who saw
him say he often beat teams single handedly.
"Off the field, Gipp was an incorrigible card player and billiards
shark. In an era when billiards was a "gentleman's pastime"
played in ornate hotel lobbies, like that of The Oliver in South Bend,
IN., Gipp took on every challenger and beat them all. Frequently he'd
leave Notre Dame for weeks at a time to play in billiards tournaments, or
for marathon card games.
"Besides focusing on Gipp and Rockne-who Miller would like to see
played by Robert Duvall-the film will depict football as it was then-a
brutal, vicious, even savage game. Face guards were unheard of. Helmets
were a farce. In those years after World War 1, it was a violent game
played by violent men, many of them back from the war in which they became
accustomed to sticking bayonets in other men."
"Miller said the only obstacle to the film being made, now that
Columbia has given the go-ahead, would be if Notre Dame won't give its
blessing. He insists he will not pursue it any further against Notre
Miller said in the article that it would be a "controversial"
film. "Anytime you deal with a myth, there's controversy."
Miller intended to spend some time in Laurium, Michigan, Gipp's
birthplace, with his son and Jim Crowley, grandson of the late Jim Crowley
of Four Horsemen fame. After that, Miller planned to travel to Notre Dame
to brief officials, including the president, Father Edward A. Malloy. That
was the last anyone heard of that project.
The Scranton SUNDAY TIMES article was courtesy of a friend, Tony DiMarco,
a Hollywood producer and screen writer who entered into my life in 1981 by
virtue of a mutual friend, Emil Klosinski. At that time DiMarco, who owns
the movie rights to the Pat Chelland book "ONE FOR THE GIPPER,"
was working hard to secure financial backing for a movie of the same name.
During this time, I, too, was attempting to generate interest in a Gipp
movie and only weeks before hearing from DiMareo for the first time had
written a letter to Mr. Robert Redford, he of Hollywood fame. Here's how
the letter reads:
- Dear Mr. Redford,
- This letter was prompted partly by my
admiration for you as a talented actor and
- partly by my strong desire to some day
see a truly reflective, in-depth screen portrayal of the Notre Dame
legend, George Gipp. I happen to believe that Gipp provides an
excellent subject for a screen play and that, physically and
characteristically, you would be ideal for the role. In spite of some
distasteful aspects of Gipp's behavior to which some people might
object, I believe that in a delicately handled screen play the young
man would definitely emerge a hero to millions.
- I enclose photocopies of three pages
from last Saturday's official Notre Dame football program which
featured George Gipp's life and legend. 'This account of his life,
exploits and accomplishments is probably as interesting and
comprehensive as you will find in so brief an article, though there is
much more depth and color to be found about the man, including his pal
"Jinks," who drank with him, chalked his pool cue, and
happened to be a midget.
- In 1978, Mr. Frank O'Connor, of Frank
O'Connor Productions, Hollywood General Studios, contacted me about
his plans to produce a movie about Gipp. Jason Miller (Author's note:
here's that name again, proving the 1989 attempt at a Gipp movie was
not Miller's first.) was to do the writing. I have heard no more about
the project since 1978. To the best of my knowledge, George Gipp is a
public domain character.
- Should this letter ignite a spark of
interest on your part, perhaps you might check it out with prospective
producers, or even give some thought to producing such a film
yourself. As keeper of Notre Dame's athletic memorabilia, I would be
happy to assist in any way possible. Any further private interest on
my part has been explained above.
- I believe the Gipper story could be
beautiful and dramatic. His copper-mining country background, his
burial in a blinding snowstorm, his attitudes and mannerisms, all add
up to a kind of mysticism. In these days of "Rocky" and
"Brian's Song," why not one for the Gipper? He seemingly
came out of nowhere, made his indelible mark as an American sports
hero, and even more unexpectedly left us.
- Do be assured of my gratitude for your
I mailed that letter on October 5, 1981 . A couple of weeks later Tony
DiMarco and I discovered each other. On October 21 DiMarco put in a
telephone call to my office at Notre Dame and, later that same day,
followed up on it with this letter:
That reaction came in the form of a letter
from Robert Redford's secretary at Wildwood Enterprises, Inc., Burbank,
California, which read:
- I just wanted to thank you again for
your courtesy on the phone today.
- As I told you, we are very
enthusiastic over our George Gipp project and we will continue to
pursue it either as a television movie of the week or as a feature
- I'll keep you informed as to what
progress we make and I'd be interested in hearing what, if any,
reaction you get from Robert Redford.
Earlier, in September of 1981, Tony DiMareo
had this to say in a letter to Mutual friend Emil Klosinski:
Robert Redford has asked me to respond to your letter.
- Mr. Redford wanted me to thank you for
sharing your idea with him. It does sound as if the life of George
Gipp could serve as the basis of an intriguing film; unfortunately,
however, it's not one to which Mr. Redford feels he could commit
himself-especially in light of the large number of projects that he
has in development already. It really would be pointless for him to
look further at this stage.
- But Mr. Redford did appreciate your
sending the suggestion along, and we will keep it on file for possible
During that same time, September of 1981, I
had delivered to my desk a copy of a memorandum addressed to Father Edmund
P. Joyce from Roger Valdiserri, then Associate Athletic Director and
Sports Information Director, which stated:
- We had no luck with "One for the
Gipper" at ABC. Our next meeting is scheduled with CBS on
September 28. If they pass on the project, we're going to be out of
luck for a while because NBC is not taking any meetings until after
the first of the year. They have a money problem and there are just no
funds available for movies- of-the-week at this time.
- Interestingly, President Reagan read
our outline for the Gipp movie and was very enthusiastic about it. Our
executive producer, who is a good friend of the President's, sent him
the outline and Mr. Reagan telephoned him at home and discussed it
with him for about fifteen minutes. The President said it is exactly
the kind of movie he thinks the American public would like to see. Too
bad he is not president of one of the television networks!
"We have entered into an agreement with RPR Productions, who recently
purchased the entire film library of Tel Ra Productions for the purpose of
producing commercial cassettes on the "History of Notre Dame
Football." The Tel Ra library includes a valuable amount of Notre
Dame game footage from 1948 to 1980. Included in this agreement is our
consent to make available for use all footage in our film library.
The agreement also contains provisions for all Notre Dame footage in the
RPR library to be turned over to Notre Dame as a gift in 1991. However, if
RPR decides to sell or liquidate its library sooner, Notre Dame shall
receive the film at that time.
Under the terms of the agreement, RPR will provide Notre Dame with 100
copies of the program for non-commercial use.
The Athletic Administration feels this film project will be a valuable
public relations tool and fulfills a real need in having a composite film
history of Notre Dame football.
One other important aspect of the project is that it will be produced by
NFL Films under the direction of Ed and Steve Sabol who are nationally
recognized as being the best in the business in producing sports-oriented
The memorandum introduced me to what was to be one of the most exciting
and rewarding phases of my Notre Dame sports career, comparable to my
years with the Irish Football Network, my supervision of the purchase and
integration of the 56-ton Adco Sports Book Exchange inventory into the
International Sports and Games Research Collection, or any other exciting
and rewarding venture. A day before the memorandum was written, Mr.
Valdiserri had written these words to Peter Retzlaff, President, RPR
Enclosed is the signed agreement covering the proposed cassette project on
... The History of Notre Dame Football." We are excited about the
project and will assist you in any way possible.
I have talked to Steve Sabol regarding his request to go through our own
film collection here at the University. Our Sports and Games Collection
librarian is Mr. Herb Juliano who is probably the most notable authority
on what our film collection contains. He will be of invaluable assistance
to Steve and his group.
Finally, we are pleased that we were able to agree on the final
disposition of all the Notre Dame film in your current library; as
provided for in paragraph 8 of our agreement. The gift of all this footage
will be a welcomed addition to our own collection."
The signed agreement consisted of eight paragraphs, stipulating in effect
that Notre Dame agreed to provide RPR, on an exclusive basis, the use of
all films, tapes, recordings and related materials for the purpose of
producing a one hour program featuring the history of Notre Dame football
(The finished product was 53 minutes in length). Upon completion of the
production, estimated to be approximately February 1, 1982, (actual
completion was in September of 1982), RPR would pay Notre Dame a fee of
$10,000 and provide Notre Dame with 100 copies of the program. In
addition, RPR was to pay Notre Dame an amount equal to 10 percent of all
royalties received by RPR from commercial exploitation of the program.
Prior to production, RPR was to submit to Notre Dame its proposed scripts,
as one might suspect.
Finally, it was agreed and understood that, upon the expiration of ten
years from the date of the agreement (August 27, 1981), RPR would make a
gift to the University of Notre Dame of that portion of its film library,
as of the date of this agreement (August 27, 1981), which depicts Notre
Dame football. As mentioned earlier, provisions were made for Notre Dame
to receive this gift earlier in the event RPR attempted to sell or
liquidate its film library.
The next twelve months afforded a welcome respite from activity on the
Gipper film front and an opportunity to concentrate on birds in the hand-
assisting NFL Films with the production of "Wake Up The Echoes: The
History of Notre Dame Football," and looking into the disposition of
91 reels of film which had surfaced unexpectedly after forty years of
storage under the football stadium, unknown to anyone save the eccentric
Mr. Francis Clark, who had recently passed away without divulging his
secret to me.
All of the films in this cache were 35mm nitrate-dangerous to store,
dangerous to handle and subject to corrosion. Certainly, it was not in
their best interest to be stored in the inconstant temperature of a room
beneath the football stadium.
When Clark, himself a collector of films and other memorabilia, working as
a microfilm technician in the Notre Dame library, learned about these
films, he had them removed from the football stadium and stored in the
private warehouse of a friend. A couple of years later, following Clark's
untimely death at age 43, the warehouse owner telephoned me at my
International Sports and Games Research Collection office and asked that
the films be removed from his premises. This was the first I learned about
Wasting no time, I borrowed a station wagon, picked up the film-handling
it with care, you can be sure-and arranged to have it placed in a room
with constant temperature located in the radiation laboratory close to the
library, while we pondered its disposition.
Of the 91 cans of film, approximately half were labeled, giving some
indication of their content, but the unmarked half whetted our curiosity,
and the search was on for a film laboratory with a low bid to convert
these films to 16mm safety film.
Some laboratories declined outright to work with the 35mm nitrate film.
One laboratory agreed to enter a bid to do the work, but insisted that,
should its bid be accepted, we would have to ship the film to them one can
at a time. Finally, success. Guffanti Film Laboratories in New York said
it could do the work and we could ship the film to them en mass. There was
a catch, however; their bid of $ 10,000 would have to be open ended.
Libraries, of course, never have monies for this kind of thing. So, once
again we turned to Father Edmund Joyce and his "secret"
accounts. Guffanti, meanwhile, began returning the films to us piecemeal,
as they converted them from 35mm nitrate to 16mm safety. And the
delightful surprises began.
Up until the discovery of this film, Notre Dame had no football game
highlights prior to 1943. The "unearthing" of this film took us
back to 1924. The film included games with Southern Cal from 1930 and 1931
in their entirety, rare footage from games played under Rockne going back
to 1924, scenes from victory celebrations at the railroad station in South
Bend and, praise God, six reels representing the full-length, uncut
version of the Warner Bros. picture. "Knute Rockne, All
American." All of this just in time to help us produce the
award-winning documentary on the history of Notre Dame football.
Pat O'Brien takes his
first look at Sorin Hall, his first home at
The one film, however, which contributed
most to the success of "Wake Up 'Me Echoes" did not come from
this batch of long-lost film. Rather, it was film produced by CBS-TV in
1956 as part of its "Twentieth Century" series featuring Walter
Cronkite as narrator. This episode was entitled "Rockne of Notre
Dame" and contained nearly thirty minutes of rare and unusual footage
of the great mentor himself, including a reenactment of his famous locker
room pep talk.
Another rare film which I "dug up" for Steve Sabol and his crew
was called "Notre Dame Thunder" and had been produced many years
earlier by Notre Dame students as a work project for a communications
course. The students, acting out the roles, showed how the Shea brothers
came to write the Notre Dame Fight Song in 1906 and how it evolved into
the most famous college fight song in the world.
These and other rare films, programs, newspapers and still photos all
contributed to the delight of a packed house when "Wake Up the
Echoes" had its world premiere at the Morris Civic Center in downtown
South Bend in the fall of 1982, and in presenting Notre Dame with its
single, most effective football recruiting tool. I had hardly received my
pats on the back for a job well done when the Gipper film parade again
began to strut its stuff.
By August of 1982, Tony DiMarco, still pursuing a deal with his "One
for the Gipper," had left Columbia TV and joined forces to launch
Ketchum/ DiMarco Productions. Tony, still convinced the viable project
would someday get made, felt they could do better on their own for a
By March of 1983, things began to heat up. Bill Frye, an associate of
Ketchum/DiMarco, had heard from Notre Dame. He had written Father Ted
Hesburgh at the suggestion of Irene Dunne, famed actress, to tell him
about DiMarco's interest in doing "One for the Gipper." The
reply came from Father Joyce, who wrote that, exactly one year earlier,
Notre Dame had been contacted by John H. Gerken, president of the Notre
Dame Alumni Club of Orange County, Calif., who said he had been approached
by Richard Hatch and Robyn Knapton to act as intermediary with Notre Dame
in the production of the picture. Gerken mentioned Pat Chelland's book,
President Reagan's interest in the project and Dave Ketchum and Tony
DiMarco as writers. When Father Joyce suddenly got a letter from Bill Frye
about the same project, he became confused over who was doing what, and so
stated in his letter to Bill Frye.
Joyce said that at the time he received Gerken's letter he was willing to
give tentative approval to die project, but when he learned that the
Gerken- Hatch-Knapton group was trying to raise the capital from Notre
Dame alumni and friends, he immediately withdrew his offer of cooperation
because he is "unalterably opposed to this approach."
The way the Richard Hatch thing came about in the first place was, about a
year earlier, Richard and Robyn asked DiMarco if they could try to raise
money for the film--Richard was quite eager to play Gipp--and Ketchum/
DiMarco said they had no objection to their trying. Obviously, Hatch and
Knapton made a mistake in going through the Notre Dame Club, per se.
Better the men should have been contacted individually so that there was
no possible way that the Notre Dame Club or Notre Dame itself could have
been held liable for the venture.
Granted, Bill Frye knew nothing about any of this and so he wrote to
Father Joyce. He explained his involvement in the project and the fact
that Ketchum/ DiMarco held the rights to Chelland's book and he had the
connection with President Reagan. DiMarco was hopeful the letter would
clarify matters with Notre Dame because, certainly, he would need their
cooperation in order to film part of the picture on campus.
Then, too, there was the worry about someone stealing the idea. While
Ketchuni/DiMarco owned the book rights, there was probably enough public
domain material to do the story, albeit, they felt, it wouldn't be as good
as one taken from Chelland's book.
At this point, it looked as though a Gipp movie would be made by who ever
got there first with the money. At least five other producers besides
Ketchuni/DiMarco had pitched the idea to the networks.
The danger, where Notre Dame is concerned, is that the picture could very
well be made without their cooperation by some unscrupulous producer. And,
it could easily be made into an "R" rated film by making Gipp's
love affair far more torrid and sexy than it actually was. Ketchum/DiMarco
claimed they would never do that. They had too much affection, they said,
for Notre Dame and the whole project. When Hatch asked DiMarco if he would
be interested in turning the rights to the book over to him, DiMarco
responded: "There's no way we're going to let go of them now, not
after all the blood, sweat, and tears we've put into the project."
A month later I received a telephone call from Notre Dame's Director of
Public Relations, Richard Conklin, who advised me, "Go slow on
cooperation with the CBS project until Father Joyce has a chance to
contact an earlier group interested in producing a Gipp movie. Be
courteous, but introductory."
The call was prompted by a letter Conklin had received from Marvin E.
Mirisch of The Mirisch Corporation of California. It read:
On May 2.1983, Mr Mirisch followed up with
- Please be advised that our company, in
cooperation with the CBS Television Network, is developing a project
based upon the life of George Gipp, which we expect will be televised
nationally by CBS.
- We have engaged Mike Robe to write the
screenplay, and I believe that you have had some telephone
conversations with him.
- We trust that we can call upon you for
your cooperation in making this biographical film of George Gipp one
that we can all be proud of.
And on May 6,1983, Mr. Conklin replied to
- With respect to the preparation of the
script, we and Mr. Robe are doing in-depth research in newspapers,
libraries, etc., and we hope to develop the script in a manner of
which we will all be proud.
- Let me assure you that we will be
pleased to submit the script to you for your examination and will
happily discuss with you any facets of it which you may feel require
attention or alteration.
About a month later I received Tony
DiMarco's reaction to the CBS project:
- I think the best way to proceed is
step-by-step. Since there is nothing to talk about until there is a
script, we will provide Mr. Robe access to Gipp materials in our
possession to aid his research.
- At the point where there is a shooting
script we would expect to be able to review it in order to insure a
reasonable portrayal of the University. Our further collaboration such
as allowing the copying of archival photographs or films or permitting
access to the campus for shooting would be contingent upon reaching an
agreement with you about the depiction of Notre Dame in the script.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mike Robe appeared at Notre
Dame and spent a week with me in intensive research on George Gipp, after
which he wrote these words to Director of Sports Information Roger
- I still haven't been able to get to
the bottom of the proposed George Gipp movie of the week that CBS is
working on with The Mirisch Company, but I do want you to know that we
are still pursuing the project as a feature motion picture and hope to
have some positive information to announce in the next three weeks.
- Meanwhile, it is still a mystery to us
as to why CBS turned down our project just this past June when it was
presented to them by Producer William Frye and then turned around and
made a deal with Mirisch. To say the least, the situation shows a
certain lack of ethical practices on the part of the network.
- Inasmuch as we do have some definite
interest in the project from some financial people we of course want
to keep the door open at Notre Dame so that we will be able to get
your cooperation. And, quite naturally, we are going to be very
protective of the information in Pat Chelland's biography of Gipp plus
the title, "One for the Gipper." Father Joyce had written
Bill Frye that Notre Dame will insist upon script approval (I assume
this will hold true for the CBS script as well) and we want to assure
you that this is perfectly agreeable with us.
But, again, it was not to be. Nearly a year
passed before I received this letter from Mike Robe in May of 1984:
- I sincerely want to thank you and your
staff, not only for your aid in my research effort, but for making the
trip so pleasant. It's always a pleasure to work with pros, and you
guys are the best.
- I especially want you to know that I
am most indebted and very grateful for the talents and assistance of
Mr. Herb Juliano. He was invaluable in his tireless efforts to make
sure I went home with the information I needed. Herb was completely on
top of the project when I arrived and continued to contribute in an
incisive and professional manner until the moment I left.
- I now feel we are going to have a
thorough, well-researched and entertaining biography on George Gipp
when all is written and done. And I'm quite certain, come that time,
I'll be looking back and thanking my lucky stars I had Herb Juliano on
my team in the early going.
- Along with Walter Mirisch, I again
offer my thanks for your cooperation. We'll keep the Department posted
as we progress toward what I believe will be a fine tribute to George
Gipp and the University of Notre Dame.
As to "why" CBS turned down the
Mike Robe script, I can only offer what I heard. T'he script was passed up
a ladder of executives who, to a person, gave it a glowing recommendation.
But the final authority recalled that "DEMPSEY,a period sports
biography aired on CBS about a year earlier, fared poorly in the ratings.
Moreover, the man was said to have little faith that sports dramas garner
big audiences. So.
"How are you, my friend? I hope the Indiana spring finds you well
and content, and that the Russians haven't completely squashed your
faith in the Olympic ideal.
- I bring you news of "THE GIPPER,"
which I wish were more positive. The head of programming at CBS, the
last executive whose approval was needed to put the show in
production, has "passed" on the project. Technically, this
means Walter Mirisch is free to take the show to other networks or
studios. In reality, it means CBS does not wish to pursue it at this
time. It's been my experience ... indeed it was my experience on the
show I just directed for CBS that sometimes they will pick up a script
later when circumstances change (ie. when they believe public viewing
tastes have shifted.) But they are obligated to say yes or no by a
certain date to Mr. Mirisch and for the time being, it's no."
- Walter Mirisch, however, does not plan
to dally. As of this writing, he is taking the project to Home Box
Office with the idea of turning "THE GIPPER" into a pay TV
film. And that may very well produce the positive results we want.
- I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I'm
sorry about CBS' decision, but I hope you'll keep the faith. Anything
could happen. And after all, George Gipp never gave up, did he?"
Fast forward to 1985. Out of an office on North Michigan Street in
downtown South Bend, I was single-handedly operating the National Fighting
Irish Subway Alumni Association which I had founded the year before,
shortly after the Mike Robe "GIPPER" project fizzled. On the
wall of my office hung a framed poster which once advertised the film
"Knute Rockne, All American." A large image of Knute Rockne as
portrayed by the late Pat O'Brien was surrounded by football players,
beneath three flapping pennants which in order read, "Great
Coach," "Great Guy" and "Great American." My
friend from California who sent it to me said it was worth $125. I'm only
sure of one thing, it cost me $60 to have it framed. But it is worth every
penny. It is a constant reminder of the history, heritage and tradition
that is Notre Dame football.
But it reminded me, too, that the city of South Bend was planning a
re-enactment of the gala world premiere of the film which had taken place
in 1940, as described earlier in this section. This time around Ronald
Reagan was invited, but did not attend. The affair was attended, however,
by a mysterious young man named Mike Bynum. On November 12,1985, I
received this letter from Tony DiMarco:
On November 15, 1985, I sent this reply to
- "To give you a little
background on the situation, (Mike) Bynum popped up on the scene
around late June. He had contacted Pat Chelland about the rights to
his book, "One for the Gipper," and Pat told him he should
talk to me because we held the movie/TV rights. So, he called me and
said he had interest from some rich Notre Dame alumnus in doing a
film on Gipp and Rockne and could he read our script? I finally sent
it to him, figuring I'd call his bluff. He stayed in touch and has
even made two trips out here, and seemed to be a nice enough kid
(he's 27, lives in Alabama) but he was always a bit elusive when we
asked him how and where he earned a living. He says he does
"research" for books on famous football coaches he plans
to write. At any rate, I finally arranged for him to meet with my
agent who told him that if there was interest in our script a
financial deal would have to be structured before anything could
happen. That's about where we left him maybe two weeks ago other
than his giving us about 40 pages of what he calls "notes"
on the screenplay and changes he wants in it. He also assigned
himself sole writing credit on his "screen
treatment-notes" and I was quick to let him know you don't
tamper with someone else's material (ours) before you own it.
Coincidentally, Emil's letter arrived the next day and if we were a
little leery of Bynum before, after getting your input we put a big
flashing red warning light next to his name.
- "I was curious to see how he
resolved his book deal with Notre Dame? Did he refund the money? I
would think he had to otherwise he was involved in a Federal, mail
fraud offense, was he not? He must be in good stead at the school
because he tells us he does research there and he also says he was
in attendance at the "Rockne Returns" screening which you
mentioned. He even gave us a copy of the program and says he sat
with Norm Barry and his wife."
DiMarco wasted no time in following up on
these exchanges in another letter dated November 20, 1985, and the Mike
Bynum saga continued:
- "As I told Emil (Klosinski),
I've known Mike Bynum for nearly ten years now. In that time, he has
been trying to find a way to capitalize on Notre Dame's football
fortunes and history. He tried very hard to get me to invest $15,000
in his plan to publish a set of three books on America's three
greatest coaches-Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant. Mike
spent a lot of time with Bryant while he was still alive. He had all
the legal documents drawn up, etc., but something told me to back
off and I did. He spends a lot of time when he is at Notre Dame with
Col. Jack Stephens, former assistant athletic director to
"Moose" Krause. Stephens told me a while back that Bynum
was sued for plagiarism several years ago. I can't say if that is
true. As for the "Rockne Returns" re-enactment of the
world premiere, anybody who bought a ticket could attend, and it was
the kind of affair a Mike Bynum would want to be in on.
- "As for Bynum's advertising a
book "Knute Rockne, All American," a book which to my
knowledge does not exist, and asking people to send in $17.45, I do
not know at this time how that was resolved. Roger Vaidiserri, Notre
Dame's Sports Information Director, who handles ads in the football
programs, wrote to Bynum and said, "I hope we are not going to
be embarrassed by a plethora of such letters since I don't think the
University deserves to be put in such a position." The
University was beginning to receive complaints, as was I from my
members. Bynum was trading as Autumn Football, Ltd. The Bethlehem,
PA, Globe Times ACTION LINE printed another complaint of identical
nature. My monthly "Fighting Irish Sports Reports" has
carried two stories on the situation with warnings to members.
- "For your sake, I hope Bynum is
on the level, but I can't imagine why any wealthy Notre Dame
benefactor, particularly the Stepans, would need to go through Mike
Bynum to finance a new Rockne movie. They would work through the
University. Anyway, keep in mind that if you ever do go into
production of a Gipper/Rockne movie, my expertise in that area is at
your service-and I would seek only the satisfaction I would get from
working on such a project. Incidentally, we are currently
negotiating an agreement whereby Notre Dame will assume full control
and ownership of the National Fighting Irish Subway Alumni
Association, but I don't think I'll be running it for them."
With that, things quieted down until the
following spring when, on May 3, 1986, DiMarco wrote to me these words:
- "I was not surprised to see
that Bynum had been sued for plagiarism. In essence, that's what he
did with our material. He has since phoned me about the letter I
sent him warning him about using our material without authorization
and he says he understands, but I'm not so sure he does. He says his
attorney advised him to put copyright on the material, which leads
me to believe he doesn't have a very bright attorney or he's lying.
- "Also, it was interesting to
see the name of his company-Autumn Football, Ltd. That's the name of
the company he says will fund the Rockne-Gipp film. I asked him
where he fit into the company and he said he was president, that he
has $4 million in funds, of which he put up 20%. That's $800,000 if
my math is accurate. Naturally, I don't believe it.
- "As for his so called book,
"Knute Rockne, All American," as Pat Chelland pointed out,
Harry Stuhldreher wrote a book on Rockne in 1931 and they used that
title on the dust jacket. Curiously, the title page of the book
reads, "Knute Rockne, Man Builder." I have a copy of the
book as does Pat.
- "By the way, I also phoned Paul
Stepan last week and had a nice chat. He is interested in the
project, but not as the sole financier. He was very cooperative on
the phone and I told him I was just checking to see if he was
connected with Bynum, as Bynum has been telling us. He said Bynum is
not his representative, although he knows Bynum. I have a feeling
he's a little leery of Bynum and he suggested we keep our call to
ourselves and not tell Bynum."
Bingo! I couldn't wait to get word back to
friend Tony DiMarco.
- "The mysterious Mike Bynum has
vanished from my life completely, which is fine by me. The last I
heard from him was several phone calls over the holiday season when
he assured me he had cleaned up his act at Notre Dame on that phoney
book deal he was involved in. I hope so, not for his sake, but for
the University which I'm sure was embarrassed by what he did. I
haven't heard from Paul Stepan either. I suspect that Bynum has
gotten Stepan back in his corner although Stepan was very upset with
Bynum and the Notre Dame situation the last time I talked to him. My
guess is that Bynum is pursuing his Rockne project with someone
Ten days later, with my conscience bothering
me, I did have a few words for Mike Robe about the dubious Mike Bynum. On
June 4, 1986, he replied
- "These are eventful days for
me. I'm still running the Association single-handedly and still
trying to negotiate a settlement and release agreement with Notre
Dame. The University's first proposed agreement was so
overwhelmingly one-sided in their favor and so ridiculously binding
that my directors and I would not sign it with a ten-foot pen, so to
- "Mike Bynum may have vanished
from your life, but he is very much evident in mine. He has been
spending a lot of time on campus lately, doing his
"research" or what have you. But you guessed right-he is
still pursuing the Rockne project- this time with Mike Robe of Mike
Robe Productions, Inc., Studio City, CA. Mike is a dear friend whom
I assisted with research for a screen play to be called "THE
GIPPER." Mike was commissioned to do the script for CBS-TV and
Walter Mirisch Studios. It got rave reviews, until the topman at CBS
squelched it, claiming that sports movies were too risky, based on
the network's sour experience with a show called "DEMPSEY."
Mirisch then tried to interest Home Box Office in the script. All
this happened a couple of years ago. Now Mike Bynum has contacted
Mike Robe and is trying to work something out with him. He borrowed
the script (again) and told me he thinks it is the best Gipper
script he has ever read. Of course, again he wants to re-write it,
to make it feature Rockne more. I suppose he is still waving Paul
Stepan's money in front of Robe. Bynum flew to California to see
Robe last week. Mike Robe is a good friend, but I have not said a
word to him about Bynum."
About this same time I received another
missive from Tony DiMarco:
- "I appreciate your
"warning" with regard to Mike Bynum. Indeed, he has
contacted me. He has represented himself as your friend and as the
front for some "very wealthy Notre Dame-Chicago alumnus."
In fact, he has given me pretty much the same story he handed Tony
- "Unfortunately by the time your
letter arrived, having no particular reason to distrust him, I
already had given Mr. Bynum a copy of my screenplay about George
Gipp. What he has done with it, at this point, I don't know. He has
lead me to believe he likes my version above all others he has read
and is pursuing the financing of my screenplay for production.
- "Fortunately I have made it
very clear to him that Walter Mirisch of Universal City, CA,
currently owns my screenplay, and he must deal with Walter if he
wants to acquire it.
- "I must admit, however, that if
it's true he actually put his own name on Tony DiMarco's script at
one time, I'm concerned that he now has possession of mine. I
haven't spoken with Mr. Bynum since your letter arrived. He has been
trying to call me from time to time, but I have been out of town. If
and when he reaches me, you can be assured we're going to have a
For the next year or so things settled into
a relative calm. On February 2nd of 1987 I signed a settlement and release
agreement with the University and became rather busy tieing up the loose
ends. About this time I received an offer from an organization in Texas
called "Athletes Against Drug Abuse" and another offer to live
on a permanently moored boat in Oakland harbor. The boat had recently been
given to the United States Lighthouse Society by the U.S. Coast Guard. It
was 128 feet long and weighed 617 tons. I gave it some thought for a
while-after all, it was Oakland and I once played baseball in the
- I'm sorry to hear you're still
having problems with Notre Dame. I guess they can be very stubborn
when they want to be. Also, I would think they would be leery of
having you counter sue since they are so protective of their image
and what with all the negative press a lot of the major universities
have been getting lately. We just had a big story in the LA Times
this morning about the Dan Quinn affair at Notre Dame and USC. You
may recall he was the kid who enrolled at USC and then blew the
whistle on their recruiting practices because he decided he wanted
to go to Notre Dame. It cost USC an assistant coach and several
scholarships over the next two years. Quinn is now at Notre Dame,
but from the tone of the article, he is not going to be the easiest
kid in the world for the school to handle.
- "As for Bynum, I'm not
surprised that he is still up to his old tricks. In fact, I had
heard through a studio friend that Mike Robe had some interest in
his script from private financiers and I figured it might be Bynum."
The article about "bad boy " Dan Quinn which appeared in the Los
Times and which, with their permission, I reprinted in its entirety in my
"Fighting Irish Sport Reports" newsletter before ceasing
operation of the National Subway Alunini Association, seems to have been
well founded. In the spring of 1987 he was suspended from football drills
at Notre Dame because of disciplinary action (the school would not say for
what reason) and rumor had it that the previous spring he was suspected of
cheating on one of his final exams.
With regard to my Hollywood cronies, in an update on May 6,1987, Tony
Double Bingo, Tony! Mike Bynum, still in
possession of your script, "One for the Gipper" and Mike Robe's
highly acclaimed script, "The Gipper," was busy at work. On
October 24, 1988, the big story broke in the South Bend Tribune.
- "That was interesting about Dan
Quinn. I'll bet USC is glad to have him out of their hair, even
though it cost them with the NCAA. I don't know what's with these
kids today. I just read in today's TIMES that USC has suspended
Aaron Emmanuel for several games and possibly the whole season for
getting into an off-campus fight. You may remember, he was a highly
recruited tailback out of high school but has been somewhat slow to
develop at USC. He will be a junior this year, but new coach Larry
Smith is a tough disciplinarian and obviously is making the kids
know they have to tow the mark. I think things got much too lax
under Ted Tollner.
- "Things are kind of quiet on
the Gipper movie front. I don't think the recent problems the
President had (The Iran-Contra affair) helped the project any. It's
amazing how people so closely identify Gipp with Reagan. In fact, I
wonder if many people know who Gipp really was or that he was a real
person---especially the younger generation, which wasn't around when
the Rockne movie came out.
- "Mike Bynum seems to have
vanished, although I suspect he's still out there somewhere trying
to peddle whatever it is he's doing re Gipp and Rockne."
A Notre Dame football film was in the works. A new film about University
of Notre Dame football by the maker of Oscar-winning films "Chariots
of Fire" and "Ghandi" was apparently being planned. The
November Film Corp. (Remember Mike Bynum's "Autumn Football,
Ltd."?) and Golderest Films would formally announce plans for the new
film on November 9th in the Heisman Trophy Room at New York's Downtown
Athletic Club. This was according to Chicago public relations official and
Notre Dame graduate Robert Quackenbush. Still no mention of Bynum.
Quackenbush, whom I knew as a student, authored a book called "Gipper's
Ghost" and had recently co-authored a book called "Knute Rockne:
Life and Legend" with-guess who? Mike Bynum is correct.
The next day, November 10th, a press conference was held in Chicago on
what happened to be the 60th anniversary of the famous Notre Dame upset of
Army in 1928, the game in which Coach Rockne delivered his famous "Gipper"
speech. Invitations to the two press conferences described "a film
celebrating the life of one of the greatest legends in the history of
Notre Dame football."
On November 9th, USA TODAY ran a story which read in part:
GIPPER TO LIVE ON IN NEW PRODUCTION
It just so happened that five years earlier
I had assisted Chicago Cubs public relations director, Ned Colletti, to
put together a book he had published under the title GOLDEN GLORY. The
book dealt with the Notre Dame vs Purdue football series and was "a
game by game history of one of America's greatest football
- Now, they want to film one for the
Gipper. Goldcrest Films and Television, Ltd., which produced Oscar
winners GHANDI and CHARIOTS OF FIRE, want to add GOLDEN GLORY, a
story about Notre Dame All American George Gipp, to its list.
- The movie is not all football. GOLDEN
GLORY is also a love story chronicling Gipp's relationship with Iris
Was Bynum up to his old tricks? No matter. The proposed movie on the life
of Notre Dame star George Gipp would not get the University's endorsement.
Goldcreast Films and Television, Ltd., would not be permitted to film on
the South Bend campus and would not have access to Irish archives.
Dick Conklin, associate vice president of university relations, said Notre
Dame is open to news and documentary requests, but has a policy against
made-for-TV or theater films about Irish football. "GOLDEN
GLORY" author Mike Bynum had received the university's decision in
"We're proud of our athletic achievements, but we're trying to keep
football in perspective at an academic institution," Conklin added.
"Football doesn't need any more publicity. We don't want to do
anything to indicate football consumes the mentality here."
Would Bynum take this lying down? Not hardly. The very next day, November
10th, the South Bend Tribune ran this headline: GIPP FILM TO PROCEED
WITHOUT N.D.'s BLESSING.
If this was the University's feeling in
1988, imagine how they felt in 1989 when the story broke: FILMLAND
PLANS "DARK LOOK AT GIPPER". Hollywood was trying to win
another one with the Gipper. Only this time the Notre Dame football great
was not to be the squeaky clean guy portrayed by Ronald Reagan in the 1940
film. Instead, this new film would center on Gipp's little known
"dark side." And that brings us back to the aforementioned Jason
- "The go-ahead to make the film
came despite a letter from the University to Michael Bynum, chief
executive of November Film, restating the university's official policy
against endorsing such projects.
- "Richard Conklin, associate vice
president for university relations, explained that the university has
had the policy in effect for the last five years.
- "Conklin said film makers are
warned that the university has "a built-in bias" against
another football movie about Notre Dame, and Bynum was so informed in
1987 when the matter first came up."
It's interesting to note how these attempts at a new Rockne/Gipp movie
always seem to occur during or immediately following years in which Notre
Dame won national championships in football. Will they ever end? As to the
Jason Miller attempt at a movie which would show the "dark side"
of the Gipper, I think it's an act of Providence that Notre Dame has such
a strong connection with Columbia Pictures by way of Mr. Donald Keough.
Mr. Keough is chairman of Notre Dame's board of lay trustees. He is also
president of the Coca-Cola Company which owns Columbia Pictures.
In conclusion, some final words from Tony DiMarco:
Meanwhile, through this maze of Gipper movie
activity, I was privileged to assist in the production of a couple of
half-hour Rockne documentaries, both of which afforded excitement and
reward. "IT STARTED WITH ROCKNE" was a videotaped show produced
by WMAQ-TV, Channel 5, Chicago, for airing on that NBC affiliate. It
treated of the Notre Dame spirit and tradition which is generally-though
not totally--conceded to have started with Rockne, as the title suggested.
- "I find it interesting that
(Dick) Conklin has asked you to his office with the Gipp movie file.
I'm not surprised that Conklin has not seen a Bynum script, because
I'm beginning to think none exists. The only thing I've ever seen
written by him was something he called ... The Glory of
Notre Dame," which was about 30 pages of part script, part notes
on the Gipp-Rockne story. He wrote this after he read my script
and, basically, lifted the majority of his material from our
screenplay. I told him, you don't go around lifting other people's
already copy written material without permission-it's called
On January 22, 198 1, shortly after Gerry Faust was named to succeed Dan
Devine and about the time I purchased a Pontiac Safari station wagon from
Faust-one which quickly was dubbed "the Faustmobile" (I told
friends I bought it because I thought, like its previous owner, it
wouldn't quit for at least five years)-the Department of Information
Services issued a news release which pretty much summarized another Rockne
film project with which I was involved:
The film was called "KNUTE ROCKNE: A
COACH FOR ALL SEASONS" and Cliff Robertson, the shooting crew and I
adhered to a strict Production Schedule for eight days that included
everything but sleeping together.
- "The University of Notre Dame's
fabled Knute Rockne is the subject of a new documentary to be seen at
5:30 p.m. Saturday on WNDU-TV (Channel 16). The made- for-television
film stars Cliff Robertson and was filmed in late August at several
campus and South Bend locations.
- The half-hour film recaptures
highlights of Rockne's career at Notre Dame, first as a football
player and then as coach after a brief stint as a chemistry
instructor. The 50th anniversary of Rockne's death in an airplane
crash will be observed March 31.
- Robertson narrates the story of Rockne
while being filmed in front of the University's Golden Dome, Sacred
Heart Church, The Grotto of Lourdes, Sorin Hall, St. Mary's Lake and
Notre Dame Stadium. Interior scenes were completed in Sorin Hall,
Nieuwland Science Hall and the stadium locker room, and South Bend
locales were Rockne's last home and a vacant lot near downtown where
area youths participated in football and baseball sequences.
- The American Life Style Series, of
which the film is a part, focuses each year on notable Americans who
have made a lasting mark on history. Subjects of other shows this year
are George Eastman and Paul Revere."
The list of still photos, newsreel footage, locations, actors and props
needed was lengthy, to say the least. The script for the movie was written
by Bob Shanks, husband of its producer/director Ann Shanks. Again, my dear
friend and cohort "Chet" Grant, now in his eighty-eighth year,
was utilized through his Rockne expertise to read and comment on the
script. Grant reported to University officials:
I like to remember how this film began-with
a high angle camera shot looking down on the field in an empty Notre Dame
Stadium. There is a football on a kicking tee on the 40-yard line. As the
camera slowly zooms into the ball, Cliff Robertson talks:
- "I am thrilled by the implicit
recognition in this multum in parvo script of the true source
of Rockne's genius-the strength rooted in true humility.
- "This appreciation is eminently,
warmly worthy of the real Rockne. Can I say more? My relationship with
Rockne, I should append, was not callow. He was only four years
Then, as the camera pulls back to reveal
Robertson, he picks up the ball and says:
- "In the every autumn of the
American nation, from Maine to Malibu, the ritual takes place. On the
white plain geometry of the neat green fields of a thousand arenas,
young adrenalated males, from pee-wee league beginners to the pros of
the NFL, dressed in their half-ballet, half "Star- Wars"
attire, act out the stylized combat to the accompaniment of marching
bands and bare-legged girls making handstands--cheered on by paunchy
alums and women wearing chrysanthemums. Millions more attend-and never
leave home-through the unblinking eye of television."
By mid-September the Comeo Productions crew
had left and the excitement subsided, when I received this note from Ann
- Football. And the nation is
The "Jamie" referred to in Shanks'
note was one of six student interns assigned to work with me during my
tenure as curator of the International Sports and Games Research
Collection. Two of these intems were Notre Dame students, two were sent to
me by Ohio University, one by Syracuse University and one by Bowling Green
University. Each would spend one semester as part of his training toward a
degree in a sport related discipline. The feeling of satisfaction which I
experienced in teaching these young men and, in some ways, learning from
them, while helping them prepare for a career in the sports world, cannot
- "This is just to thank you and
Jamie for your splendid help and cooperation during the filming of our
forthcoming documentary, "Knute Rockne: A Coach for All
Seasons." Needless to say, the University of Notre Dame was
essential to the film, and the stills and film almost more so. The
film is being edited and looks wonderful, thanks a good deal to you
I close this chapter with excerpts from my reply to Ann Shanks:
- "Aside from a still photo of
Rockne in boxing gear, the only other photo we were unable to produce
while you were on campus is one of Rockne's father. Enclosed are
photocopies of Rockne's entire family, including mother, father and
- grandfathers. If you are still
interested, we could have 8x10 glossy prints made of any or all of
these photos. Just let me know.
- "We found the enclosed photos
during an intense search of all Rockne materials prompted by a
telephone call, several days ago, from the president of the Hamilton
Watch Company. If we could produce evidence, he said, that Rockne ever
owned or wore a Hamilton watch, the company would manufacture a Rockne
commemorative watch as a collectible, with part of the proceeds from
its sales funneled into a fund for the International Sports and Games
Research Collection. We have thus far uncovered three photos clearly
showing Rockne wearing a wrist watch. Was it a Hamilton? Stay tuned
for further details. When it comes to watches, we're a plucky band!
- "Good shooting and may God
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