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Football Movies Have Plays On, Off Field

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every football fan will be glued to the TV set Sunday to see which two teams make it to the Super Bowl. To get in the mood for the AFC and NFC conference championships and Super Bowl XXXI itself, why not check out some of these pigskin flicks? They’re currently available on video.

In the surprise 1994 box-office smash “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” (Warner, $20), Jim Carrey’s silly, rubber-faced shamus sets out to retrieve the Miami Dolphin’s missing mascot, Snowflake, before the Super Bowl. Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino also appears.

“Brian’s Song” (Columbia TriStar, $15), originally shown on ABC-TV in 1971, scores a touchdown. This four-hankie weeper is a moving portrayal of the friendship between Chicago Bears star running back Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and his roommate, running back Brian Piccolo (James Caan) who died of cancer. Jack Warden and Shelley Fabares also star. The movie was directed by Buzz Kulik; the memorable score is by Michel Legrand.

In 1966, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau teamed up for the first time, for Billy Wilder’s biting, cynical comedy “The Fortune Cookie” (Fox, $20). Matthau copped a best supporting actor Oscar for his perfect turn as a shyster lawyer who convinces Lemmon, his TV cameraman brother-in-law, to sue for big bucks when Lemmon is hurt accidentally during a Cleveland Browns game.

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Chicago Bears great Harold “Red” Grange stars in “The Galloping Ghost” (Video Yesterday; Video Dimensions, $30), a 12-chapter serial from 1931. Grange plays a football star attempting to clear his name after being wrongly accused of throwing a game.

Warren Beatty plays a good-natured quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, who is summoned to heaven before his time and who must return to Earth in someone else’s body, in the acclaimed “Heaven Can Wait” (Paramount, $15). Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin and Dyan Cannon also star in this film from 1978, a popular remake of “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” from 1941.

The four Marx Brothers go to college in the joyously daffy farce “Horse Feathers” from 1932 (Universal, $15). Groucho plays Huxley College’s new president who tries any means necessary to beef up the school’s football team so it can beat Darwin University for the championship. Thelma Todd also stars. Groucho sings “Everyone Says I Love You” (which is the title of Woody Allen’s new movie) and “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It.”

The life of a famed Notre Dame coach gets the Hollywood treatment in the stirring 1940 biopic “Knute Rockne: All American” (MGM, $20). Pat O’Brien gives one of his best performances as the inspiring coach. Ronald Reagan plays football star George Gipp who, on his death bed, utters: “Tell the boys to win one for the Gipper.”

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Burt Reynolds plays a pro-football-player-turned-prisoner who leads a team of inmates against the warden’s prison guard team in the crude but funny comedy “The Longest Yard” from 1974 (Paramount, $15). Three years later, Reynolds turned on the charm in “Semi-Tough” (MGM, $15), a raucous, ribald adaptation of Dan Jenkins’ bestseller. Reynolds plays a famous football player who discovers that he and his best buddy (a wooden Kris Kristofferson) both have eyes for the daughter (Jill Clayburgh) of the team’s owner (a crusty Robert Preston). Michael Ritchie directed.

A splendid Nick Nolte heads the cast of “North Dallas Forty” (Paramount, $15), a well-received adaptation of a book by Peter Gent about labor abuses in the National Football League. Mac Davis, Charles Durning and Brian Dennehy also star; the movie, from 1979, was directed by Ted Kotcheff.

Randolph Scott is at his “gee, that’s swell” best as a football player who inherits his aunt’s Parisian dress emporium in the famed musical “Roberta” (MGM, $20). Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Irene Dunne also star in this sparkling 1935 adaptation of the Jerome Kern-Otto Harbach Broadway hit, which features such standards as “Lovely to Look At,” “I Won’t Dance” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Keep your eyes peeled for a young Lucille Ball in one of the fashion sequences.

Michael Curtiz directed the surprisingly sentimental John Wayne vehicle “Trouble Along the Way” in 1953 (Warner, $20). The Duke plays a once-famous coach who takes a position at a Catholic college in order to retain custody of his daughter (Sherry Jackson). Donna Reed and Charles Coburn also star.

Even More Football: Arriving Tuesday is “Connie Gomper and the Pack” (Polygram, $10), a humorous “behind-the-scenes” look at the community of Green Bay and its beloved football team, the Packers. Cindy Sandberg plays the fictional Connie Gomper, hostess of a chat show.

Coming Next Week: “She’s the One” (Fox), a romantic comedy starring, written and directed by Edward (“The Brothers McMullen”) Burns; Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Mike McGlone, Maxine Bahns and John Mahoney also are featured. . . . Dennis Miller, Angie Everhart, Corey Feldman and Chris Sarandon in the horror comedy “Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood” (Universal). . . . “The White Balloon” (Evergreen), an award-winning Iranian adventure about a young girl’s desire to own goldfish. . . . John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick and Robert Duvall in “Phenomenon” (Touchstone), a comedy-drama about a man who finds himself blessed with super mental powers after he is engulfed by a mysterious light.


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