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Spirit Spirit of Culver - The Movie  

A 1939 Universal Picture set in Culver, the remake of 1932's Tom Brown of Culver.
Freddie Bartholomew, Andy Devine, and Jackie Cooper starred in this 1939 remake of 1932's Tom Brown of Culver. While much of Tom Brown was shot on location on the Academy campus in Culver, Spirit was shot in a reconstructed set in Hollywood, due to the disruption and chaos caused by the presence of film crews in 1931-32 on CMA's campus.

The production values may have been a bit more polished in The Spirit of Culver, but many viewers have expressed a sense that the remake lacks some of the charm of the 1932 original film. Part of this, of course, may be the sentiments of Culver folks about the lack of on-location shots of the area!

This film has not been released on dvd or video. It was distributed by Universal PIctures of Hollywood.

New Movie Features C.M.A. Background

With work already underway on “The Spirit of Culver ,” the heart-pulling story of youth and its problems and conflicts told against the background of the Culver Military Academy, Universal announced the cast for the new picture. Slated with Jackie Cooper, who plays the lead, will be Andy Devine, Freddy Bartholomew, Gene Reynolds, Henry H ull, Jackie Moran, Walter Tetley, Jack Grant, Jr., and Tim Holt,

Particular interest at the Culver Military Academy lies not only in the fact that the setting for the picture is a local one, but that Tim Holt (son of the well known Jack Holt) is a Culver graduate of the class of 1936 and has been cast in an important role as a cadet officer whose great interest and understanding in Tom Brown plays a vital part in developing the boy’s character.

While at Culver Tim took an active part in student dramatics under the direction of Major C.C. Mather. He was also a star polo player, a cadet non-commissioned officer in the Black Horse Troop, a member of the football, swimming, and the rifle teams, and an outstanding student. After being graduated from Culver , Tim was signed to a long term contract in Hollywood by Walter Wanger and first starred opposite Ann Shirley in Stella Dallas. He was married in December.

According to information from the Universal Studios, Burt Kelly, veteran Hollywood producer, is in charge of production, with Joseph Santley, directing. Capitalizing on the great national interest in youth and in view of the tremendous popularity of the star and supporting cast, Universal is planning an intensive, country-wide campaign to bring the picture forcibly to the front as an outstanding attraction of the season. Whitley Bolton, noted scenarist and newspaper columnist, collaborated on the script with Nathaniel West.

Typical of the extreme care with which Universal is producing the film, is the fact that Brigadier General L.R. Gignilliat, Academy superintendent, was invited to Hollywood to supervise the picture in the capacity of technical advisor.

In addition to General Gignilliat, Bill Leach of Evanston, Ill., and who was graduated last June, is in Hollywood assisting in training the film players in drill exercise and military routines. Val Herrmann, uniform specialist at the Academy, is also on the coast supervising the manufacture of uniforms and other equipment to add to the authenticity of the production. Leach was second ranking cadet captain in the cadet corps and captain of the undefeated varsity swimming team and a member of the football squad. - - The Culver Citizen, Jan. 18, 1939

Four stars who will appear in Universal’s new military school feature, “The Spirit of Culver ,” are shown above between scenes at Universal City. From left to right they are Jackie Cooper, Andy Devine, Freddy Bartholomew and Henry Hull.

Jackie Cooper, who plays the lead in the forthcoming picture, made his film debut when he was four years old, playing in comedies with Lloyd Hamilton. After playing in many Hal Roach comedies, Jackie appeared in “Skippy,” directed by Jackie’s uncle, Norman Taurog. This picture was a tremendous success and proved to be the turning point in Cooper’s career. He was then signed to a long-term contract by MGM and appeared with Wallace Beery in “The Champ.” Now sixteen he recently appeared in such pictures as, “The Devil is a Sissy,” “Treasure Island,” “Tough Guy,” “That Certain Age,” “Gangster’s Boy,” and others.

Andy Devine, the big, good-natured epitome of comedy in misery and comfort, is filmdom’s outstanding portrayer of the clumsy, slow-witted fellow who finds himself forever in hot water in a fast-moving and complicated . Born in Flagstaff, Ariz., Devine comes from a distinguished family. His maternal grandfather, Admiral James Harmon Ward, was one of the founders of Annapolis. Devine was a star football player in college and later he played professional ball. It was this athletic prowess which ultimately got him “the break” in pictures. After little success in his first picture efforts, Devine worked as a lifeguard at Venice. When he heard that Universal was going to make a football picture, “The Spirit of Notre Dame,” he applied and received a part. His comedy work in this picture was so convincing that he was given a long term contract.

Freddy Bartholomew, the outstanding English lad, made his American debut in “David Copperfield.” Hailed as a great discover, he starred in some of the greatest pictures to come out of Hollywood, “Anna Karenina,” with Garbo, “The Devil is a Sissy,” “Professional Soldier,” “Kidnapped,” and “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” Active in all outdoor American boy sports, he is proud of the title “regular fellow” conferred by his fellow workers.

Henry Hull, brilliant veteran of the American stage, rounded twenty-six years of success in the theatre with his great hit as Jeeter in the record-breaking “Tobacco Road.” He plays the part of Jackie’s father in “The Spirit of Culver .” Born in Louisville, Ky., he attended school in New York where he moved with his father, one-time dramatic critic on the Louisville Courier-Journal. He is a graduate of Columbia. After working as an electrical engineer with the Bell Telephone Company, he took a whirl at patent law and then, in 1911, appeared in his first stage role in “The Nigger.” A world-war veteran, Hull returned to the stage in “The Cat and the Canary” and later starred in “Lulu Belle,” and “Springtime for Henry.” Hull’s talking picture debut was made in “Paradise for Three,” and he was featured recently in “Three Comrades,” “Yellow Jack” and the “Great Waltz” before doing his role at Universal in “The Spirit of Culver .”

The Culver Citizen, Spring 1939

Behind the Scenes in Making Academy Film

As work progresses on the Universal movie, “The Spirit of Culver ,” interesting notes have come from Universal City where the picture is being made.

A letter from General L.R. Gignilliat stated that Freddy Bartholomew, who is starred with Jackie Cooper, who plays the lead, is a regular kid and should play an important role in the success of the picture. According to the General, Freddie’s English accent is accounted for by casting him as the son of a Culver alumnus who was killed overseas as an officer in the American army. Prior to the war he lived in London where he married an English girl.

In deference to his father’s last wish Freddie (John Randolph III) was sent to his father’s American prep school. The part is cast in such a way that it adds a note of drama, and of democracies hanging together, as the story proceeds.

“Andy Devine,” the letter continues, “came on the set this morning looking tired and disheveled. He announced the arrival of a son and heir the previous midnight. So I had him sign a Culver application for the son and heir, entered at seven hours old and fourteen inches in height.” In the picture, Andy Devine plays the part played by Slim Summerville in the original Universal production, “Tom Brown of Culver .”

The practice drill field on the set where extras are trained to be Culver cadets is just in front of Deanna Durbin’s cottage, the General said.

”When she comes out, enroute to her set, discipline is gone with the wind, and heads are turned. I fear it wo uld be even so with bona fide Culver cadets. She is very lovely.”

Bill Leach, who was graduated last year from Culver , is assisting General Gignilliat in drilling the extras in their military routines. College students from Southern California are working in as cadets, and many scenes are being shot on the campus at Pamona College, whose grounds are not unlike those here at Culver , the general stated.

Mrs. Gignilliat has joined the General in California and has been on the set a great deal, making friends and renewing old acquaintances. During the last week she visited with W.C. Fields, Edgar Bergen, and Charley McCarthey. Although she expressed herself as liking the sparkle of Edgar Bergen, Mrs. Gignilliat stated that she found our friend, Charley, a bit wooden.

The life of a technical director is indeed a f ull one, the General disclosed. “I am up every morning at six: the studio car comes for me at 6:45, and I am on the set for ten and twelve hours every day. The other morning between the hours of three and five I did some writing for the script. Thus you can see, the whole thing is a 24-hour job.

“All in all,” he concluded, “’The Spirit of Culver ’ impresses me as a picture which is going to have a deep, fine marching beat to it. Joseph Santley, the director, is a veteran actor, and one of the best men with boys I have ever seen. He is quiet and courteous and is doing wonders with the players and the story.” -The Culver Citizen, Feb. 1, 1939

The Spirit of Culver

In this campus drama, an orphan wins a cadet scholarship to the Culver Military Academy. He is a cocky fellow, and is very proud that his late father was a decorated war hero who died in battle. His arrogance and unwillingness to comply with the academy's strict rules soon gets him into hot water. Fortunately, the lad's level-headed roommate helps him settle down and toe the line. Later the young man learns that his dad is still alive and is recovering from the trauma of battle in a local VA hospital. Time passes and the young man grows up to be a fine cadet. Meanwhile, his father heals and becomes the courageous hero he once was. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide

New York Times
Sunday, March 12, 2017
THE SCREEN; Passing Judgments on Criterion's 'Fast and Loose,' the Paramount's ' Never Say Die,' and Others
Published: March 9, 1939

With the aid of Henry H ull, who is still an actor in spite of all these years in Hollywood, a story which wasn't altogether the res ult of a conference and the whole-hearted collaboration of Culver Military Academy (which even gets a credit line from the costume department), "Spirit of Culver ," at the Rivoli, is the veritable spirit of Americanism. It is, also, something more amusing; forgetting the commercial possibilities of the flag, it is the best picture in the "Spirit of Old —" tradition in years, including West Point and Nelson Eddy.

Now "The Spirit of Old (Rutgers, Yale, West Point, Annapolis, etc., etc.)," as we ought to explain, is one of the oldest and least worthy of cinema traditions — a gross and unwarranted presuming on the idea that any one who tries to go against the mob, armed with uniforms, flags, military bands, rifles and "traditions," as it is, is bound to be ultimately either pilloried or persuaded. In a sense this is all too true, alas, but it is likewise true that the future sometimes erects monuments to the memory of people who defied the mob, and were burned at the stake in the public square. With this proviso, we are happy to admit that "Spirit of Culver " is a credit to all concerned, especially to the authors, who, in a hitherto unparalleled burst of inventiveness, bring Jackie Cooper's hero-father to life in the middle of the plot, and cause Jackie to love him anyway, even if the old man wasn't strictly entitled to that Congressional Medal. That, my friends, in this day and age, is genius.

Better still, this opportunely resurrected father is Henry Hull, and Mr. Hull is an actor who strives so well to invest screen roles with dignity and meaning that he very often, against all the odds, succeeds. Freddie Bartholomew and Andy Devine (in addition to Master Cooper) are his best assistants, but better still in this case is the story by Mr. Whitney Bolton, a writer of graceful and amusing newspaper pieces who is also, apparently, an excellent scrivener of screen plays. It's about time Hollywood turned out a good "school spirit" picture, after all these years of practice, and "Spirit of Culver " seems to be the one.

At the Rivoli

SPIRIT OF Culver ,
screen play by Whitney Bolton and Nathaniel West;
directed byJoseph Santley;
produced by Burt Kelly for Universal.

Tom Allen . . . . . Jackie Cooper
Bob Randolph . . . . . Freddie Bartholomew
Tubby . . . . . Andy Devine
Doc Allen . . . . . Henry H ull
Perkins . . . . . Jackie Moran
Captain Wilson . . . . . Tim Holt
Carruthers . . . . . Gene Reynolds
June Macy . . . . . Kathryn Kane

IMDb Earth's Biggest Movie Database lists the cast and production workers of the movie. There is no rating viewer comments or message board for this moive as yet on this site.
    Full Cast and Crew for
    The Spirit of Culver (1939)

    Directed by Joseph Santley

    Writing credits (in alphabetical order)
    Whitney Bolton screenplay
    Tom Buckingham story
    George Green story
    Clarence Marks story
    Nathanael West screenplay

    Cast (in credits order) complete, awaiting verification
    Jackie Cooper .... Tom Allen
    Freddie Bartholomew .... Bob Randolph
    Andy Devine .... Tubby
    Henry H ull .... Doc Allen
    Jackie Moran .... Perkins
    Tim Holt .... Capt. Wilson
    Gene Reynolds .... Carruthers
    Kathryn Kane .... June Macy
    Walter Tetley .... Hank
    Pierre Watkin .... Capt. Wharton
    John Hamilton .... Maj. White
    rest of cast listed alphabetically:
    Irving Bacon .... Clerk (uncredited)
    Georgie Billings .... Young Boy (uncredited)
    Donald Briggs .... Instructor (uncredited)
    Joe Cunningham Jr. .... Cadet (uncredited)
    Eddie Dunn .... Truck Driver (uncredited)
    Johnny Fitzgerald .... Brat (uncredited)
    Marjorie Gateson .... Mrs. Macy, June Mother (uncredited)
    Jack Grant Jr. .... Cadet (uncredited)
    Eddie Hall .... Taxicab Driver (uncredited)
    Herbert Heywood .... Watchman (uncredited)
    Arthur Housman .... The Drunk (uncredited)
    J. Anthony Hughes .... Dance Instructor (uncredited)
    Stanley Hughes .... Intern (uncredited)
    Hollis Jewell .... Cadet (uncredited)
    Lon McCallister .... Cadet (uncredited)
    Johnnie Morris .... Cadet (uncredited)
    Franklin Parker .... Railroad Ticket Agent (uncredited)
    Raymond Parker .... Intern (uncredited)
    Frances Robinson .... Nurse (uncredited)
    Henry Roquemore .... The Tailor (uncredited)
    Joseph Santley Jr. .... Plebe Boxing Champ (uncredited)
    Nelson Scott .... Cadet (uncredited)
    Charles Smith .... Cadet (uncredited)
    Milburn Stone .... Instructor (uncredited)
    Harry Tyler .... Frank (uncredited)
    Monte Vandergrift .... Rusty (uncredited)
    Arthur Yeoman .... Clerk (uncredited)

    Produced by Burt Kelly .... associate producer

    Original Music by
    Frank Skinner
    Charles Henderson (uncredited)

    Cinematography by Elwood Bredell

    Film Editing by Frank Gross

    Art Direction by Jack Otterson

    Set Decoration by Russell A. Gausman (as R.A. Gausman)

    Sound Department Bernard B. Brown .... sound supervisor

    Other crew

    Charles Previn .... musical director

movies. com Gives the ratings, wan run time on the film; as well as other information found on other sites about it too.
    Genre(s) Drama
    Running Time 89 minutes
    MPAA Rating NR

A Review is found at with a list of facts of the movie, cracters and production.
    Another in the seemingly endless string of "Spirit of . . . (name your favorite alma mater)" movies that were ground out with alarming regularity in the 1930s, THE SPIRIT OF Culver is basically a remake of 1932's TOM BROWN OF Culver . Cooper stars as an orphaned youngster who wins a cadet scholarship to Culver Military Academy. Entering with a chip on his sho ulder (his father, Hull, was a decorated war hero who died in action), Cooper rebels against the academy's strict discipline and only survives the training due to the help from his roommate, Bartholomew. As it turns out, Cooper's dad isn't dead at all, but is very much alive and suffering from shell shock in a nearby VA hospital. Eventually Cooper becomes a man and Hull recovers his nerve and self-respect.

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