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Film Review: Pigskin Parade

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Pigskin Parade

20th Century-Fox, 1936 (BW, 95 minutes)

Due to a miscommunication, Yale inadvertently invites the small Texas State University to play their football team for a benefit game. Coincidentally, TSU has just hired a new coach (Jack Haley) who arrives at the college with his wife (Patsy Kelly) just in time to hear the announcement that the team is to play Yale. The coach digs in to whip the team into shape, but just before the big game, the quarterback breaks his leg. All seems hopeless until they stumble across an Arkansas hillbilly (Stuart Erwin) who throws a football like no one they've ever seen. The only problem remaining is to figure a way to get the college to enroll the hillbilly so that he can take the place of the injured quarterback.

See DVD Review

Crew

Produced by: Bogart Rogers
Directed by: David Butler
Screenplay by: Harry Tugend, Jack Yellen and William Conselman,
from a story by Arthur Sheekman, Jack Yellen and Mark Kelly
Music and lyrics by: Lew Pollack & Sidney D. Mitchell and
The Yacht Club Boys
Musical direction: David Buttolph
Photography: Arthur Miller
Editor: Irene Morra
Filmed: August 1936 - September 1936 (Judy was 14 years old)
Released: October 1936

Cast

Stuart Erwin ... Amos Dodd
Patsy Kelly ... Bessie Winters
Jack Haley ... Slug Winters
The Yacht Club Boys ... Themselves
Johnny Downs ... Chip Carson
Betty Grable ... Laura Watson
Arline Judge ... Sally Saxon
Dixie Dunbar ... Ginger Jones
Judy Garland ... Sairy Dodd/Murine VanDyck
Anthony (Tony) Martin ... Tommy Baker
Elisha Cook Jr. ... H. Tewilliger VanDyck
Fred Kohler Jr. ... Biff
Eddie Nugent ... Sparks
Grady Sutton ... Mortimer Higgins
Julius Tannen ... Dr. Burke
Sam Hayes ... Radio Announcer at ballgame [Himself]
Bob McClung ... Country Boy
George Herbert ... Professor
Jack Murphy ... Usher
Pat Flaherty ... Referee
David Sharpe ... Messenger Boy
Si Jenks ... Baggage Master
John Dilson ... Doctor
Jack Stoney ... Policeman
George Y. Harvey ... Brakeman
Ben Hall ... Boy in Stadium
Lynn Bari ... Girl in Stadium
Charles Wilson ... Yale Coach
George Offerman Jr. ... Freddy
Maurice Cass ... Prof. Tutweiler
Jack Best ... Prof. McCormick
Douglas Wood ... Prof. Dutton
Charles Croker-King ... Prof. Pillsbury
Alan Ladd ... Student
Edward Le Saint ... Judge
Jed Prouty ... Mr. Van Dyke
Emma Dunn ... Mrs. Van Dyke

Original Fox cast photo from the collection of the author
1936 - what a cast! Front L-R: Dixie Dunbar, Jack Haley, Patsy Kelly, Stu Erwin, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, Johnny Downs. Second row: between Haley and Kelly is Tony Martin; between Erwin and Garland is one of the Yacht Club Boys; between Garland and Grable is Fred Kohler Jr. All up-and-coming players at the time, not one failed to become a household name.

Musical Program

[0:13] T.S.U. Alma Mater  (Chorus)
[0:15] You're Slightly Terrific  (Tony Martin, Dixie Dunbar and Ensemble)
[0:20] Woo Woo  (The Yacht Club Boys)
[0:28] We'd Rather Be in College  (The Yacht Club Boys)
[0:50] Down with Everything  (The Yacht Club Boys, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Chorus)
[0:58] The Balboa  (Dixie Dunbar, Johnny Downs, Betty Grable, Judy Garland,
Jack Haley, Patsy Kelly and The Yacht Club Boys)

[1:04] You Do the Darndest Things, Baby  (Jack Haley)
[1:09] The Texas Tornado  (Judy Garland)
[1:11] It's Love I'm After  (Judy Garland)
[1:20] The Texas Sunshine  (The Yacht Club Boys)
[1:31] The Texas Tornado  (reprise, Ensemble and Chorus)
[cut] "Hold That Bulldog"  (Judy Garland and Ensemble)


see soundtrack CD review

Notes

In 1936 MGM loaned Judy to Fox to make Pigskin Parade - the only time MGM would loan her out to any studio. Loanouts of new players was common practice during the years of the studio system. New players could be given an audience test with no risk to the loaning studio. Why Judy was loaned out is not clear, but many of the producers at MGM were reluctant to use her because they thought audiences wouldn't believe that her voice wasn't dubbed. In addition, MGM was not sure how to feature a teenage singer - something with which they had little experience. The MGM strategy seems to have been to get Judy known - let her appear on radio, on publicity tours, at parties and social functions, record on Decca, and even appear in a Fox film. Once she was known they could put her in their own productions with some confidence that audiences would believe that the voice they heard was her own.

Fox was obviously aware of Judy's talents. They created the part for her, and the script contains phrases such as "This is where Judy will do her stuff ... giving out a thrilling rendition like it's never been done before."

Judy's performance in this film is probably as good as could be expected of anyone in such a small part. But, her singing is truly amazing. It is interesting to see Judy in a support role - something we don't see very often! Pigskin Parade and Every Sunday are the earliest of the films in which she sang during her early teens. Previously, she was in a number of shorts with her sisters, but she was only seven years old at the time. The development of her voice and screen presence were truly remarkable over the next five years! There is only one recording of Judy between the age of about 7, when she was in the Vitaphone shorts, and the age of 14 when she appeared in Pigskin Parade. That film is an MGM short called La Fiesta de Santa Barbara. Although her singing at age 7 is impressive, her talent really blossomed during the next few years. At age 7, no one could have known what was in store for her, but by age 14, it was obvious that the little girl with the great big voice was definitely going to be a star.

Though Fox designed this film as a vehicle for Stuart Erwin, their latest upcoming star, Erwin was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Audiences and critics considered Patsy Kelly and Jack Haley to be the leading actress and actor of the film, so Erwin's nomination was a dubious honor for the actor.

The film is now available on videotape Fox Video No. 1892. The release date was June 3, 1997, and the tape is still in print. All of Judy's films are now commercially available on tape. This one is worth the price for the cover alone! It just may be my favorite Judy video cover! Thanks so much, Fox!

Though there is no "official" soundtrack, there is an "unofficial" soundtrack available on CD. It is Chansons Cinema CIN013 (1996). The sound quality of the CD is not great, but it's good enough for me, especially since there's no other choice.

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for information about the latest releases of home video and sountrack.

See Class Act for more information on this and other classic films.

Critical Response

"In the newcomer category is Judy Garland, about 12 or 13 now, about whom the West Coast has been enthusing as a vocal find ... She's a cute, not too pretty but pleasingly fetching personality, who certainly knows how to sell a pop."

- Variety, November 18, 1936

Memorable Lines

Sairy: "Y'all stop fer melons?" (Judy Garland's first line in a feature film!)

Sairy: "I can sing! Ya wanna hear me?"

Sairy: "Van Dyck. Gotta git me a high-toned front handle for that! (pauses, thinking) I got it! Murine!"
Amos: "Murine? Well, that's right fancy! Where'd ya get that?"
Sairy: "Off'n a bottle!"

Supplemental Material

Supplement 1: Miscellaneous photos

See DVD Review




Pigskin Parade DVD
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See DVD Review


Pigskin Parade VHS
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Pigskin Parade Import Soundtrack
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Fox publicity photo: Tony Martin and Dixie Dunbar




Fox publicity photo of finale




Original music sheet




Original music sheet




Judy Garland sings "It's Love I'm After"




Judy Garland publicity photo




Judy Garland publicity photo

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