I watched Maker of Men because it features an early credited performance from John Wayne. Had I known how small his part was, I may have reconsidered.
The story concerns the beloved football coach of a sizeable college. His milquetoast son Bob enrolls as a freshman, makes the team, and pledges his father’s fraternity. But Bob proves a horrible football player. He’s terrified of getting hit, leading him to fumble, costing the team multiple games. His father stands by him, costing the Coach the team. Bob quits, leaves the school, and cuts ties with his father for two years.
Then, during the last game of his father’s contract, Bob shows up playing for the school’s hated rival. Bob proves a superstar, beating his father’s team and outplaying its captain, played by John Wayne.
First, Maker of Men strains credibility expecting us to believe slender Richard Cromwell could manhandle John Wayne. But I’ll pass that. The vague emotional stakes, however, I can’t forgive.
They render the viewing experience a chore. Were we meant to condemn the father’s stern behavior? Maybe, yet the finale proves him right. Were we meant to embrace Bud’s story of redemption? Perhaps, but at the expense of his father’s career? A deeper film might explore these issues. But with its stilted dialogue and emotive performances, Maker of Men is not that film.