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Idol of the Crowds is a 1937 American drama sport film directed by Arthur Lubin and starring John Wayne as an ice hockey player.[1] It was one of a series of non-Westerns Wayne made for Universal.[2] The film was originally called Hell on Ice but the Hays Office requested this be changed.[3]


The New York Panthers ice hockey team is struggling in the standings. A scouting team headed by Kelly (Hopton) heads to Maine where they've heard of a promising former amateur player. He turns out to be John Hanson (Wayne), now a chicken farmer.

Hanson does not wish to return to the game, but when he learns how much money he can make, he agrees solely so he can make enough to upgrade his farm. His skills make him an instant sensation, but as the team heads toward the championship series, he runs afoul of crooked gamblers and the beautiful woman (Bromley) they tempt him with.


  • John Wayne as Johnny Hanson
  • Sheila Bromley as Helen Dale
  • Charles Brokaw as Jack Irwin
  • Bill Burrud as Bobby
  • Jane Johns as Peggy
  • Huntley Gordon as Harvey Castle
  • Frank Otto as Joe Garber
  • Russell Hopton as Kelly
  • Hal Neiman as Squat Bates
  • Virginia Brissac as Mrs. Dale
  • George Lloyd as Spike Regan
  • Clem Bevans as Andy Moore
  • Wayne Castle as Swifty
  • Lloyd Ford as Hank
  • Lee Ford as Elmer


The film was announced in April 1937.[4] In May Universal announced the film as part of its upcoming output.[5]

Filming took place in May.[6] Wayne later said "I'm from Southern California. I've never been on [expletive] skates in my life. I was in the hospital for two [expletive] days after that."[7]

Wayne's biographer Scott Eyman later said "It was a fish-out-of-water experience" for the actor. "Hockey was just something completely alien to him. This was before television, so he'd probably never even seen a hockey game... As for his skating, he basically gets away with it. He's OK as long as he's moving in a straight line."[7]


The Christian Science Monitor said it had "sufficient excitement".[8]


Madison Square Gardens sued Universal Pictures over the movie claiming the hockey scenes damaged its reputation, by falsely representing that the violent games in the film took place at the Garden.[9] The suit was unsuccessful.[10]

See also[]

  • John Wayne filmography


  1. Idol of the Crowds Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 4, Iss. 37, (January 1, 1937): 196.
  2. Vagg, Stephen (September 14, 2019). "The Cinema of Arthur Lubin". 
  3. Schallert, E. (June 18, 1937). ZANUCK TO STAR SHIRLEY TEMPLE IN "REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM". Los Angeles Times
  4. SCREEN NOTES: Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. April 17, 1937: 15.
  5. Universal's Plans Outlined: Fifty Feature Pictures for Coming Year to Cost $13,500,000 Los Angeles Times May 19, 1937: A3.
  6. THREE NEW FILMS LISTED FOR TODAY New York Times May 29, 1937: 21.
  7. 7.0 7.1 John Wayne's (gratefully) forgotten hockey movie: A non-skater made Idol of the Crowds Hughes, James. The Guelph Mercury June 7, 2014: D.9.
  8. Monitor Movie Guide: Durbin-Stokowski Make Music In Original and Amusing Film The Christian Science Monitor October 16, 1937: 17.
  9. (May 18, 1938) "Incorporating Hockey Clips in U Feature Brings Madison Square Suit". 
  10. (June 15, 1938) "Garden Loses Suit vs U's Hockey Film". 

External links[]

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