Thursday, January 25, 2018

Football Cinema - ELEVEN MEN AND A GIRL (1930)

Get your mind out of the gutter. This is not a porn film! But it is a bit sexy thanks to Joan Bennett! And it seems to be better known under the title MAYBE IT'S LOVE but that is a much less accurate name for this slight little film. 

In ELEVEN MEN AND A GIRL (1930) Joan Bennett plays Nan, the daughter of the president of Upton University, an academically strong but athletically weak Midwestern College. After the 12th straight annual loss to their main football rival school the president is informed that if they lose next year he will lose his job as well. So, Nan and the one good football player on the Upton team come up with a scheme to recruit a team of winners from various colleges around the country. Nan travels from place to place during the summer flirting and romantically enticing eleven fantastic players to come to Upton football in the hopes of landing her love. As you might expect from a storyline of this type things don't go perfectly well and at a certain point all of the football players realize that they're carrying around the same signed picture of the same sweetheart.

Frustrated and peeved the team decides first take it out on her, but then she's able to sweet-talk them into accepting the situation and playing the big game for Upton anyway. Because this is a comedy rather than a drama, this all goes down easy for most of the men because she has actually fallen in love with the star of the group played by James Hall. As you might expect from a comedic plot line such as this in which the natural outcome would involve hideous violence the film plays fast and loose with just what these fellow's emotions would actually be. That there are no fistfights seems a little odd but what the heck. 

It's a  pretty silly kind of fun and things move fast enough that, as long as you enjoy early 30s Hollywood cinema, you'll get a kick out of it. Joe E. Brown is slightly obnoxious but generally amusing as the now outmatched former star football player for the college but the real star here is definitely Joan Bennett. Whether she's flirting with football players, posing in a body clinging wet dress or making fun of situations in the hopes of getting everyone to get along well with each other, she is an absolute delight in this movie. This being a pre-code film much time is given over to displaying the fact that Miss Bennett is absolutely gorgeous and never wearing a bra. There came a point about 20 minutes into the movie when I thought that perhaps they were going to give Miss Bennett's breasts co-starring credit!

For me though the real joy was the entire second half which plays out as a highlight reel for the big game that will decide whether Upton has to say goodbye to their school president. It's a great deal of fun to see football as it was played in the late 1920's and early 30's with very few pads and only occasional helmets being worn. The football is slightly larger in diameter than what we have today reminding me of a Rugby ball. Of course, the strategies are all the same and there is some great football excitement in this final act. I'm not going to pretend this is a great movie or even a very good one but clocking in at an hour and 12 minutes it's actually pretty fun if you enjoy cinema from this period of time. If not, steer clear. 

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