The Great Game (1953)

‘The Great Game’ (1953) is a 70 year old time capsule

The Great Game is a return to an innocent time and it makes — as Bill, Ted, or Wayne would say — a most excellent escape from the pandemic. It’s hard to believe the story is 70 years old, because it is almost timeless and still entertaining.

Joe Lawson (James Hayter), an owner bored of his print company, finds a new ambition as chairman of Burnville United FC. Despite Lawson’s investments in the top-flight club, the team is in the relegation zone. By serendipity, a young woman in the office asks for time off to marry Ned Rutter. Young Rutter (Glyn Houston) plays for Burnville’s rival Monktown, is known as the Dribbler, and is destined to get a cap for England. Lawson seizes on the chance to get Rutter to request a transfer. But is Lawson’s friendly negotiation a case of tapping up?

Modern football is not so different from Classic football

Compared to today, the film revolves around 2 interesting areas: the state of football at the time, and how women are portrayed.

First of all, we have a chance to see game footage of the then 50 year old Griffin Park grounds of Brentford FC. Like a time capsule, we watch a marching band parade across the pitch, the crowds in the Brook Road stand, the board room, the food stands, the folding chair seating, the ticket booths, and the importance of programs . A woman faints in the stands and is passed down to a stretcher on the sideline via crowd-surfing. This leads the vixen Lulu (Diana Dors) to do the same in order to dump her date and get a seat in the Directors box.

The way the 3 female characters are weaved together makes a large part of the story. They all work in Lawson’s printing company. There is the hard-working old maid (Thora Hird), the footballer’s fiancé who seems like a dingbat but runs a no-nonsense negotiation, and Lulu whose only real job seems to be vamping around the office. They all get along quite well and contrast with the men, especially their buffoon boss, who are all football-mad — the males’ business decisions are rescued by the women. The women also have all the comedic lines.

Based on the 1949 play by Basil Thomas, Director Maurice Elvey has crafted a classic that shows how little the intrigues around football have changed in 70 years. It’s interesting to compare this film with The English Game, which depicts a period another 70 years earlier. Both stories show how tapping (poaching) players has been a problem since the game’s inception, and as we are well aware, it continues today.

The Griffin Park stadium will soon be gone

After watching this film, I really wanted to see the stadium some day. But it turns out that Brentford FC is one of the top teams in the Championship, and they will inaugurate their new stadium in 2021. The 116 year old Griffin Park will be replaced by housing and other buildings.

About the cast members

The Great Game (1953) original poster By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

Since the film is so old, it is difficult to find much about the people who put this excellent film together, with the exception of Diana Dors. The Great Game was one of her early films, and she went on to become known as Britain’s Marilyn Monroe. She famously characterized herself as the first British sex symbol since Lady Godiva and led a pretty wild life.

Producer David Dent and actor Glyn Houston only died quite recently. You can tell in the film that Houston was quite the athlete, bolstering the games’ believability. James Hayter originated the role in theater and does a perfect job as a blustering boss whose ambition you actually may sympathize with (if you’re a football fan).

A perfect time capsule, I think you will agree that The Great Game is fun, fascinating, and a classic of English football.

8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8


28 minutes from the film