» » A Million to One (1937)

Short summary

John Kent (Monte Blue') wins the Olympic decathlon but is disqualified on a charge of professionalism. William Stevens (Kenneth Harlan), the second-place finisher, is awarded the title and trophies. Six years later Kent is running a moving truck for a living and training his young son Johnny (Bruce Bennett) to become an athlete. Chance brings about a meeting between Ken and Stevens, now a prosperous business man, with a little daughter, Joan (Joan Fontaine), who makes friends with young Johnny. As the years pass, the grown-up Johnny has developed to where he stands a chance of becoming an Olympic athlete and is in love with Joan. Mr. Stevens also wants to see Johnny succeed, and is annoyed that his attention to Joan may interfere with his training. Rich girl Patricia Stanley (Suzanne Kaaren) is also interested in Johnny, a proceeding which suits wealthy young athlete Duke Hale (Reed Howes), who is Johnny's main rival in sports and for Joan. Stevens, in an effort to repay the elder ...

This film received its earliest documented telecast in Los Angeles Friday 25 December 1948 on KFI-TV (Channel 9).

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: INwhite
    Real life athelete Herman Brix stars as an Olympic hopeful, rigorously trained by his father (silent star Monte Blue). They train at a camp run by former silent star Kenneth Harlan, who has a marvelously modern daughter (very young Joan Fontaine) who can scarcely contain her attraction to the fit Mr. Brix. Enter two carloads of rich young things, and the athelete's life becomes complicated by all the temptations that the fast life has to offer. Aside from exciting track and field event footage, the picture is a series of "getting even" schemes, lead by the unusual combination of future forties girl Suzanne Kaarn and a clotheshorse turn by former Arrow Collar man-silent "B" action star, Reed Howes. The glory of this film is noticing that Mr. Howes, always a star so long as he kept moving, does all of his own stunt work, which in this film includes keeping up with Mr. Brix, a professional athelete some 8 years his junior, not only on the field and in a series of jumps and breathtaking javelin lunges, but also in an extended fight scene during which the panting Miss Fontaine locks herself inside the tennis courts with the battling duo. Mr. Howes, one of the best looking men of the 1920s, still looks terrific, if a bit stiff in his talking sequences, and reminds one at times of the Donna Reed Show's Carl Betz. Monte Blue does his usual good work. Mr. Brix isn't bad, but the camera hasn't settled on that face as of yet, while Fontaine gives more hints of her future worth than could be found in any of her early RKO vehicles.
  • comment
    • Author: Anyshoun
    I find it interesting seeing films by future stars and occasionally you can't even tell it's them! Take, for example, Ida Lupino and Joan Fontaine. Both were born and raised abroad and had decidedly non-American accents in their early films. Moreover, they underwent HUGE makeovers--with new hair styles, makeup...everything. Both these women also have an odd connection--two of their earliest films were made with American Olympians. In "Search for Beauty", Ida is cast along side Buster Crabbe (winner of three medals for swimming, two of which were golds) and here in "A Million to One" Joan is cast along side Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett) who won Olympic silver for the shot-put. While both are very cheap films and their acting isn't particularly distinguished, both are must-sees for old movie buffs.

    This film begins at the 1912 Olympics. John Kent won the Decathalon--only to have it soon stripped away on a technicality*. Then, John uses his energy to raise his son, Johnny (Herman Brix), to eventually be an Olympic decathletes as well. Unfortunately, during his training, he meets Joan (Joan Fontaine) and the father is worried she'll be a distraction and ruin Johnny's chances for Olympic gold.

    This film was distributed by Puritan Pictures which means that the picture is about as low budget and cheap as can be. Several scenes were extremely poor acted--so poor that you marvel that they didn't bother re-filming these scenes. One example is the guy playing the newspaper editor, as he could barely deliver his lines and honestly sounds like a middle schooler trying to act! Another is the fight scene as both look completely inept and it is laughably done. A consultant should have been used as the pair look like they are dancing more than fighting! The movie also lacks incidental music and is curiously quiet at times. Clearly this film is a B---and a very low budgeted and cheaply assembled one.

    So despite these problems, is the film any good? Not especially. Brix and Fontaine were not yet polished actors and the script is rather pedestrian. It's rarely terrible but also rarely very good. But still, worth watching so you can see Joan with her much more British accent and odd pre-makeover look. It's hard to imagine looking at her that only a few years later she'd win the Oscar for Best Actress!
  • comment
    • Author: Ť.ħ.ê_Ĉ.õ.о.Ł
    This is more of a curiosity for the presence of a future Oscar winning star in her first lead, although one that came from poverty row rather than one of the majors. Joan Fontaine moved up the ladder to stardom quickly, although her first few films are mostly forgotten bottom of double bills and supporting parts in a few now classic A films. For this one, she's at one of the fly by night studios that probably made a few bucks but little impression. She's a rich man's daughter who falls in love with an athlete in training (Bruce Bennett, "Mildred Pierce"), and at her father's wishes, breaks off with him so he can go all the way and get the medals and trophies his own father (Monte Blue) didn't because an error had Fontaine's father getting them instead.

    This is highlighted by some light hearted moments where Bennett plays around with the honking Joan while she tries to pass his truck and she pulls him out of a cliff side ditch, driving off with him still roped to her car. Bennett is quite the athletic specimen here: running, jumping and hurling discus with ease. He's a far cry from the character actor of just 8 years later who walked out on Joan Crawford, her two spoiled daughters, laundry and pies. This is quite interesting for a z grade programmer that didn't give its future huge star much attention and didn't get much notice even after.
  • Complete credited cast:
    Bruce Bennett Bruce Bennett - Johnny Kent (as Herman Brix)
    Joan Fontaine Joan Fontaine - Joan Stevens
    Reed Howes Reed Howes - Duke Hale
    Monte Blue Monte Blue - John Kent, Sr.
    Kenneth Harlan Kenneth Harlan - William Stevens
    Suzanne Kaaren Suzanne Kaaren - Pat Stanley
    Joey O'Brien Joey O'Brien - Johnny Kent, as a Young Boy
    Joy Healy Joy Healy - Joan Stevens, as a Young Girl
    Ben Hall Ben Hall - Joe
    Edward Peil Sr. Edward Peil Sr. - Mac
    Dick Simmons Dick Simmons - Friend
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