TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY —–sappy sentimental comedy from 1953 managed to coast to 28th place that year, thanks to starring John Wayne, but it’s one of his lamest movies, a by-the-numbers flapjack with plot points you can see coming miles away. A yawner.
A small Catholic college will be closed unless they can come up with some way of raising money. Crusty (yet beloved, naturally) rector ‘Father Burke’ (Charles Coburn, walking through it like it’s second-nature) hires a down-on-luck (yet–surprise– rascally charming) football coach (the Star) to pull a rabbit (made of leather) out of the hat. Helping the school is one thing, making sure his precocious (yet great with smartypants comebacks, naturally) 11-year old tomboy daughter (Sherry Jackson, holding her own) stays with him is another, since his ex-wife (Marie Windsor, scheming, naturally) wants custody just to be mean, and has a social worker (Donna Reed, a dish, if she’d just lighten up, naturally) on the coach’s case. Gosh, ‘Steve’ is such a swell guy, and the old Father is such a saint, and …ya wonder if everything will work out okay? It does, but it’s not remotely interesting, and the by-the-numbers laughs are mostly pitiful. Wayne ambles through, Reed is poorly wasted as the humorless do-gooder—see, all she needs is to be shown-up publicly and bingo! she falls for the big lug–just like real-life!
Direction was by Michael Curtiz, music by Max Steiner. Written by Melville Shavelson & Jack Rose, but Wayne had buddy James Edward Grant secretly re-write to suit him (he thought), while an irked Shavelson, producing, filmed two versions without letting Wayne in on it. The resultant blow-up made for an unhappy shoot, and the clashing writing styles readily show up, with no credit to anyone involved. Produced for $1,600,000, running 110 minutes.
With Dabbs Greer,Tom Tully, Chuck Connors, Douglas Spencer, Tom Helmore, Leaf Erickson, Frank Ferguson, James Flavin, Ned Glass. James Dean, 22, is a spectator in the stands (good luck picking him out).