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A 1932 Universal Picture set and filmed (mostly, at least!) in Culver

A Review of Tom Brown of Culver from the New York Times Movie Datebase

An excerpt: "...a local American Legion post presents Tom with a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Culver Military Academy; while Tom has his doubts about his future as a soldier, he certainly understands the value of an education and accepts. However, its not until after he's enrolled at Culver that Tom learns the truth about his father -- "Doc" Brown (H.B. Warner) fled in the midst of battle, exchanging his identification with a dead soldier, and has been living the life of a coward ever since. Will Tom be able to restore the good name of the Brown family?"

Another review of the movie online.

TV Guide's brief review of the film here. An excerpt:

"A touching story about the transformation of Brown from an unruly kid into an outstanding cadet at Culver Military Academy. He believes (as everyone else does) that his father died a war hero, and the American Legion puts him through military school. However, his father turns out not to be dead but a deserter. This knowledge almost shatters the young boy, but the support of his pals from the academy helps him to get back on his feet and to accomplish the feat of getting his dad an honorable discharge."

Both Tyrone Power and Alan Ladd made their film debut in Tom Brown of Culver. An online biography of Power here, and of Ladd here.

The Internet Movie Database's site on Tom Brown of Culver

Images from the Movie

Movie 01 Movie 02 Movie 03 Movie 04 Movie 05 Movie 06 Movie 07

Above: a confrontation. Culver and Lake Maxinkuckee feature prominently in this scene from the movie, in which main character Tom Brown fails to salute the gold star at the Legion Memorial Building, raising the ire of one of his classmates. Notice not only the Memorial Building in these shots, but the lake in the background as well.

Movie 08 Movie 09 Movie 10 Movie 11 Movie 12

Above: assorted campus scenes from the movie, including (last) in the barracks, scenes which were actually shot in California in replicated barracks constructed there.

Press clippings:

1931 and 1932 articles from the Culver Citizen describing the making and release of "Tom Brown of Culver"

Col. Rossow Leaves For Hollywood Studios

Col. Robert Rossow left Sunday for Hollywood Calif., where he will aid the   Universal Picture  Corporation in producing the Culver picture, "Tom Brown of Culver." It is undecided when Colonel Rossow will return but it will probably not be until the picture is completed.

Two wardrobes, such as the cadets use in their rooms are to be taken out to furnish a complete and authentic cadet room. The uniforms will be made at the academy so there will be as few alterations as possible. These will be furnished  to only those who will actually need them. A company of high school R.0. T. C. cadets will be used for the necessary close-ups.

The actual shooting will start within two or three, days after the arrival of Colonel Rossow.  After the shooting starts it will probably take only six or eight weeks to complete the picture.

-The Culver Citizen, early 1932.


The moving picture, "Tom Brown of Culver," which was filmed at the Culver Military Academy, has been released and is now showing in the larger theatres over the country. The following review was given by a critic in the "Hollywood Record" after the preview.

Answering the cry for something different, Universal presents for your entertainment "Tom Brown of Culver," as neat a piece of entertainment  as this reviewer has seen in .many a preview night.

The story is different, its-direction is different, it is played differently, and there will certainly be a difference in your box-office check-up after you have completed your engagement.

Someone in the picture business ought to start an investigation to delve into the brains of those responsible for this picture at Universal and ascertain why they have, absolutely, buried the conventional and left the love interest out of a picture—this picture.

There are plenty of heart throbs in it, some of them reaching pangs, but not one brought onthrough the influence of a woman, and all because of human emotions for the actions of human beings in a real human story.

Ninety per cent of the story is laid in the Culver Military Academy. The players are cadets at the same Academy, with a cast of Hollywood artists enacting the major portions of the story. It is all about one Tom Brown, who is financed through the Academy by the Legion in recognition of the extremely valorous service given to the country by Tom's father, who, until well past the middle of the story, was thought to 'be dead. He returns very unexpectedly and instead of being a hero, confesses that he deserted, placed his wrist plate on a dead soldier and, accordingly, was awarded the Distinguished  Service medal.  Of course, this is all washed up In the end to the satisfaction of the audience.

The movement of the story in the military school, the progressive steps of the training and education of those boys, the dramatic and, sometimes, comic actions in their, lives, furnish excellent material and, as said above, something different.

The big punch of the picture though, after giving great credit to its  authors  and  adaptors, George Greene, E. A. Patterson and Tom Buckingham, is in the direction of William Wyler, whose praise has been sung in these columns before.  Wyler distinguishes himself with this production and Universal has a big directorial asset in, his contract.

Tom Brown, as Tom Brown, and Richard Cromwell grab the acting honors, with Slim Summerville and Ben Alexander running neck and neck for next honors.

The rest of the cast all did excellently with smaller bits.

-The Culver Citizen, July 13, 1932


Directors, Technicians, And Actors Return at Once To Hollywood.

Having spent approximately three weeks at Culver, the actors and technical staff of the "Tom Brown at Culver" unit of the Universal Pictures Corporation, left the Academy Friday to return to the studio in Hollywood.

The following is a brief resume which gives an idea of the local scenes that will appear in the movie, and of the large amount of work required to make a film. Last week on Friday, May 13, a full-dress parade was filmed on the parade ground directly in front of the Riding Hall. The Corps marched under a special camera platform, erected on the Oval, on its way to the parade area while the cameras took views from the front and rear of the columns.

Saturday, the following day, drill scenes were taken of the Infantry battalions on Pershing Walk. These included squad movements, manual of arms and dismissal of companies. Sunday, the Honor Guard was taken to Indianapolis where scenes were filmed in cooperation with nine drum and bugle corps of the American Legion. The action took place in the vicinity of the war memorials in Indianapolis.   Tuesday  afternoon, scenes of the Final Formation were taken on the First Class area in from of Main Barracks. The ceremonies included the passing of the graduates through the Iron Gate and the entrance of the First Class while the Band played the theme song of the picture. This song, entitled "Give the Military Band a Hand," was written by the father of Tom Brown, who plays the leading role.

The following afternoon, the Final Formation scenes were finished. These included close-ups of the Faculty, members of the graduating class and the actual dismissal of the Winter School by General Gignilliat.

The morning of the same day was taken up with special shots of E Company Drill in which, the  Universal actors participated. These were close-up scenes including dialogue. The men used for this special duty were excused from all classes. Thursday, the final scenes were filmed both in the morning and afternoon. It is interesting to note that 150,000 feet of film were taken at Culver alone, not including the film taken in Hollywood. The picture when completed, will probably contain not more than 8,000 feet. This seemingly enormous waste is typical of every production that emerges from the Hollywood Studios

-The Culver Citizen, May 25, 1932

"Tom Brown of Culver" Film Nears Completion

Col. Rossow

Above: Col. Rossow in California on the set of Tom Brown of Culver

The Universal  moving  picture, "Tom Brown of Culver," featuring cadet life at the Culver Military Academy and using the beautiful Academy campus as a background, is nearing completion. The cast is at the Academy this week finishing the last shots and it is believed that the picture will be ready for release within a short time.

An unusually strong cast is taking part in the picture, indicating that the film will be one of the best pictures of the year. Some of the actors are H.  B. Warner, Tom Brown, Richard Cromwell,  Tyrone Power Jr., Russell Hopton, Willard Robertson, Slim Summerville, Gene Pallette,  Sidney  Toler,   Norman Phillips Jr., and many other well known movie stars.

-The Culver Citizen, -May 4, 1932

Culver Movie Makes Hit At Showing Here

Last Friday night the corps of the Culver Summer School, faculty and friends of the school attended the first showing here of "Tom Brown of Culver," a Universal Film Company feature picture. The picture was enthusiastically received by the capacity crowd as the film not only gave excellent views of the academy and ably depicted the molding of a boy's life, but the acting was of the highest type with Tom Brown and "Slim" Summerville carrying away the honors. The directing of the picture was unusually  good, while the theme kept the interest of the audience at a high point throughout. The film should rate as one of the best productions of the year.

Gen. L. R. Gignilliat made the interesting statement that 300,000 feet of film were taken while only 7,000 are used in the picture as finally released. 

-The Culver Citizen, July 20, 1932