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Knute Rockne, All American

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Biography, Drama, Sport

Music director
Heinz Eric Roemheld

United States


Initial DVD release
August 15, 2006



Knute Rockne, All American movie poster

Lloyd Bacon William K. Howard (uncredited)

Release date
October 4, 1940 (1940-10-04) (South Bend, Indiana premiere)

Robert Buckner (original screen play), Mrs. Knute Rockne (based upon: private papers of, and the reports of Rocknes intimate associates and friends)

Initial release
October 4, 1940 (South Bend)

Lloyd Bacon, William K. Howard

Pat O'Brien
(Knute Rockne),
Ronald Reagan
(George Gipp),
Gale Page
(Bonnie Skiles Rockne),
Donald Crisp
(Father John Callahan, C.S.C),
Albert Bassermann
(Father Julius Nieuwland (as Albert Basserman)),
John Litel
(Committee Chairman)

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Knute Rockne, All American is a 1940 biographical film which tells the story of Knute Rockne, Notre Dame football coach. It stars Pat O'Brien portraying the role of Rockne and Ronald Reagan as player George Gipp, a.k.a. "The Gipper," as well as Gale Page, Donald Crisp, Albert Bassermann, Owen Davis, Jr., Nick Lukats, Kane Richmond, William Marshall and William Byrne. It also includes cameos by legendary football coaches "Pop" Warner, Amos Alonzo Stagg, William H. Spaulding, and Howard Jones, playing themselves.


Knute Rockne, All American movie scenes

Reagan's presidential campaign revived interest in the film, resulting in reporters calling him "The Gipper."

Knute Rockne, All American movie scenes

The movie was written by Robert Buckner and directed by Lloyd Bacon, who replaced William K. Howard after filming had begun. In 1997, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in their National Film Registry.

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Knute Rockne, All American Knute Rockne All American Trailer YouTube

Lars Knutson Rockne moves his family from Norway in 1892, settling in Chicago. His son Knute saves up his money and enrolls in college at the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Indiana, where he plays football.

Knute Rockne, All American Knute Rockne All American 1940

After graduation, Rockne marries sweetheart Bonnie Skiles and stays on at Notre Dame to teach chemistry, work in the chemistry lab under Father Nieuwland on synthetic rubber and in his spare time serve as an assistant coach of the Fighting Irish football team under Coach Jess Harper. He and his college roommate, quarterback Gus Dorais, develop the forward pass, which enables Notre Dame to defeat the traditionally strong team from West Point.

Knute Rockne, All American Amazoncom Knute Rockne All American Robert Buckner Hal B Wallis

An outstanding freshman halfback, George Gipp, leads the Irish to greater gridiron glory. Gipp is stricken with a fatal illness, however, and encourages the team to go out and "win one for the Gipper."

Knute Rockne, All American Knute Rockne All American 1940 A March Through Film History

Notre Dame continues its football success with a backfield of stars dubbed "the Four Horsemen." Rockne, tragically, is killed in a 1931 plane crash on a trip to California, but his legend makes him a campus immortal.


  • Pat O'Brien as Knute Rockne
  • Gale Page as Bonnie Skiles Rockne
  • Ronald Reagan as George Gipp
  • Donald Crisp as Father John Cavanaugh
  • Albert Bassermann as Father Julius Nieuwland
  • John Litel as Committee Chairman
  • Henry O'Neill as Doctor
  • Owen Davis, Jr. as Gus Dorias
  • John Qualen as Lars Knutson Rockne
  • Dorothy Tree as Martha Rockne
  • Johnny Sheffield as Knute, Age 7
  • Howard Jones as Himself
  • Glenn "Pop" Warner as Himself
  • Alonzo Stagg as Himself
  • William "Bill" Spaulding as Himself
  • William Marshall as one of Four Horsemen
  • George Reeves as a distraught player
  • Lucile Fairbanks as a telephone operator (uncredited)
  • Reception

    Knute Rockne, All American Knute Rockne AllAmerican Original Theatrical Trailer YouTube

    Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called the film "one of the best pictures for boys in years" and wrote that O'Brien conveyed "a valid impression of an iron-willed, dynamic and cryptic fellow who could very well be 'Rock.' As a memorial to a fine and inspiring molder of character in young men, this picture ranks high. But, like the Carnegie Foundation has done on previous occasions, we are inclined to question its overemphasis of the pigskin sport." Variety called it "one of the best biographical picturizations ever turned out ... Pat O'Brien delivers a fine characterization of the immortal Rockne, catching the spirit of the role with an understanding of the human qualities of the man." Film Daily wrote, "Pat O'Brien's life-like Rockne is brilliantly delineated; it's as though Rockne himself were striding across the field once more." Harrison's Reports wrote, "Very good! It is the first football picture produced without any 'hokum'; it shows how teams are developed and what the game means to both players and coach ... The football scenes should prove thrilling to all." John Mosher of The New Yorker said the story had been "suitably handled for its public of energetic young people and South Bend alumni."

    The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
  • Knute Rockne: "Tell 'em to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper." – #89
  • 2006: AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – Nominated
  • 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10:
  • Nominated Sports Film
  • "Win one for the Gipper"

    This quote is ranked #89 on a poll of AFI 100 Years...100 Quotes. The phrase "Win one for the Gipper" was later used as a political slogan by Ronald Reagan, who was often referred to as "The Gipper" due to playing the role in the movie. A famous use of it was at the 1988 Republican National Convention when Reagan told his Vice President George H. W. Bush, "George, go out there and win one for the Gipper." It was also used at the 1996 Republican National Convention by Bob Dole, as the 1996 Republican National Convention was held in Reagan's home state of California. It was used again in the 2004 Republican National Convention by President George W. Bush in his acceptance speech when he stated "we can now truly win one for the Gipper," shortly after Reagan's death.

    The speech is parodied in the movie Airplane!, which was released when Reagan was running for the presidency in 1980.


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