Trouble Along the Way (1953) B-
One of the few pictures in which John Wayne plays a morally dubious character was Trouble Along the Way. He was cast as a cynical big-time football coach who was kicked out of the big league because he was unable to conform.
“Winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing,” says Steve Williams, the college athletics instructor played by Wayne. Recently divorced, Williams has trouble finding a job due to his “independent” streak, his inability to get along with superiors and get orders. But if he doesn’t find work soon, he’ll lose custody of his daughter Carole (Sherry Jackson).
Meanwhile, St. Anthony’s College, heavily in debt, may be forced to close its doors. Father Burke (Charles Coburn), rector of St. Anthony’s, reasons that the school could get back on its feet if it had a winning football team, thereby securing the support of the alumni.
Against his better judgment, Burke hires the troublesome Steve Williams, who’ll stop at nothing to assemble a winning team.
Williams is hired by the Rector of a Catholic college, Father Burke (Charles Coburn), who wants to save the college from its financial difficulties by establishing an athletic program.
Williams has used unethical methods to put the college back on its feet, faking academic grades to get good players, and even resorting to blackmail to get good playing dates. He refuses to admit to any shame, when reproached by the Father for his disreputable means.
Throughout the story, Williams maintains a cynical view of the sports business, refusing to condemn corruption, so long as it is a useful means to win–which some interpreted as a realistic commentary on the corrupt practices of the American sports establishment.
But he does go through a process of “humanization,” which softens him, under the supervision of social worker Alice Singleton (Donna Reed).
More sentimental and conventional than most Wayne vehicles of that era, “Trouble Along the Way” is a passably entertaining comedy, directed by Michael Curtiz in an undistinguished way.
John Wayne as Steve Aloysius Williams
Donna Reed as Alice Singleton
Charles Coburn as Father Burke
Tom Tully as Father Malone
Sherry Jackson as Carole Williams
Marie Windsor as Anne McCormick
Tom Helmore as Harold McCormick
Dabbs Greer as Father Mahoney
Leif Erickson as Father Provincial
Douglas Spencer as Procurator
Lester Matthews as Cardinal O’Shea
Chuck Connors as Stan Schwegler
Bill Radovich as Moose McCall
Murray Alper as bus driver
Running Time: 110 Minutes.
Directed By: Michael Curtiz
Released: April 4, 1953.
DVD: May 22, 2007 (for John Wayne’s centennial)
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