October 4, 1940 - Premier of Knute Rockne All American

Knute Rockne All American Movie PosterIt may not have been the first movie made about Notre Dame (that honor goes to The Spirit of Notre Dame (1931) and we'll get to this movie later on) but it was the first movie filmed on campus. The movie boasted Hollywood stars Pat O'Brien as Knute Rockne and Ronald Reagan as George Gipp. According to IMDB, since Notre Dame held all control over the filming they would not OK James Cagney to play the part of Rockne, hence the part went to O'Brien. There were also cameos made by Amos Alonzo Stagg (the coach who basically made American football as we know it today), Howard Jones (coach at Southern Cal), and Glenn 'Pop' Warner (started youth football leagues). Since all three were in California at the time they were logical representatives but they were also colleagues of Rockne as well. The Moreau Choir was also featured in their motion picture debut. Below is the trailer to the film.

The film follows the life of Knute Rockne as he immigrates to the United States with his family. He then enrolls at the University of Notre Dame as a chemistry student and athlete. The film was put together with help from Rockne's widow, Bonnie Skiles Rockne, and the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame held control over all aspects of the film. James Cagney lobbied heavily to play the role of Rockne but since Cagney signed a petition in support of the anti-Catholic Republican government in the Spanish Civil War he was denied the part (according to IMDB).

Premier of Knute Rockne All AmericanMany of the stars, including O'Brien and Reagan, would return to South Bend for the premier on this night. The picture to the right shows the crowds gathered in between the Palace Theater (now the Morris Performing Arts Center) and the Granada Theater (demolished in 1971 and now a fountain). Knute Rockne All American TicketKeeping with the theme, the movie tickets were designed like football ticket. The film would be simultaneously shown at several theaters around South Bend, with many of the larger theaters seating 2,000 patrons.

The American Film Institute voted the line Tell 'em to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper as the 89th best movie quote of all time. Rockne's halftime speech was made famous through this film and O'Brien's portrayal of Rockne. Ronald Reagan would earn the nickname "Gipper" that would follow him the rest of his life. He also would return to South Bend several times during his Presidency.

You probably have seen Rudy, but to get a true appreciation of Notre Dame get a copy of this film. It can be found on Amazon. But to get you started, here is the first six minutes.

Keywords: knute rockne all american, movie, ronald reagan, the spirit of notre dame, amos alonzo stagg, glenn pop warner, howard jones, george gipp, president, rudy, moreau choir

Posted On: 2011-10-04 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07


      Were you there? Have more to add? Leave a comment and let us know!

   Posted By: Gail at 2011-10-05 13:53:43[#1]
I don't recall ever seeing this movie so it may be time to watch it. It might be interesting to see the changes to the campus.

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