John Wayne stars as a down and out former football coach Steve Williams, who is trying to raise his 11-year-old daughter Carol on his own. His ex-wife Anne, played by Marie Windsor, wants him to play the divorce game her way since she remarried into money. She threatens to take their daughter away from him if he doesn’t abide by her rules.
Charles Coburn is a delightful Father Burke, rector of financially-failing St. Anthony’s College. He attended as a student, worked there as a professor, and now as rector, he hates to see it torn down. It’s not just a college to him, it’s his home. Unless he can come up with the money to save the school, Burke will be reassigned.
Deuteronomy 32:15 (paraphrased: He grew fat and kicked) became Burke’s impetus, pushing him forward down the trail to the money he needs to save his home. At dinner with other clergy, he announces the Bible verse, but the other men don’t already know the verse. Father Burke says, “Is there a Bible in the house or do you have to go to a hotel?” Love that.
The verse speaks of football to Father Burke, so he goes to a college with a successful football program already in place where he receives a tip on where to get a coach with the right experience – and one he can afford to pay.
Steve and his daughter Carol had been living off gambling money, so the offer to coach again is a step up for his lifestyle. Social worker Alice Singleton, not impressed with Carol’s home, vows to do everything she can to get her out of the less than perfect circumstances.
Steve accepts the coaching job and uses a lot of patience during the transition to living at a Catholic school. Carol, though streetwise and used to her dad’s faults, gets to know Father Burke and ends up liking him.
The writing in this movie is fabulous. There are plenty of zingers and cute lines, but I think they saved the best dialog for Father Burke.
Needless to say, I liked this film. The acting was very good, but you expect that from these actors. There were good twists and unexpected turns. The characters made you like them, except for the ex-wife, of course. And the ending gives you a sense of what will happen next.