$1,000 a Touchdown

Director:

  J. Hogan

Producer:

  W. L. Baron

Year:

  1939

Distributor:

  Paramount Pictures

Country:

  USA

Running time:

  71 min

Genre:

  Comedy

Format:

  B&W

Availability:

  N/A

Keywords:

  University president, Senior administrator, Drama, Theatre, Fixed games, University athletics (football), Gambling, Professional football
Summary
By 1939 both the facade of amateurism in US college football and widespread betting on games was such widespread public knowledge that it became a stock plot device in studio comedies like this; where Martha Madison is the President of a small theatre school on the verge of bankruptcy because of low enrollment.

When she is told that no one wants to attend a college that doesn't have a football team, she decides to solve two problems at once by creating her own football team and betting on the games. To ensure victory, Martha uses professional players, bribing them by offering a course on "Romance," taught by the alluring Betty McLean (Susan Hayward). She not only saves her college, but also teaches the coaches of the established college teams a thing or two about football, as well as winning the heart of her star ringer.

Teaching Notes
Portrayal of university athletics; Socio-cultural history:
By 1939, the narrative conventions of the college football movie had been so frequently satirized that it became an independent reflexive stereotype that could be inserted into all types of comedies. As well, such films are a barometer of how much the contemporary image of college football had changed to reflect the widespread public recognition that college football was so rife with illegal betting, and the use of paid professionals who were students in name only, to the point that it became a narrative stereotype in its own right.

This newer narrative convention was soon established as part of the overall genre, and did much to dismantle the older school-story conventions, although never displacing them completely. More recently, it formed the narrative basis of George Clooney's 2008 film Leatherheads. American college football today has no need of "ringers," since lucrative football scholarships, commercial sponsorships and other generous compensations provided by boosters make a $1K-per-TD payout seem rather quaint by comparison.

Portrayal of women in senior administration and governance :
The good news is that this is about the only film in this filmography to feature a woman as a college president; the bad news is that she and her husband are a show-biz couple who happened to inherit the college. How better to highlight the alluring Susan Hayward than to have her surrounded by admiring college gridiron heroes of the time — real-life "ringers" — who were brought in as cameo extras.

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Poster Lobby Card
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President Madison (with husband) Romance Professor Betty McLean