Leni Riefenstahl's book on the '36 Olympics, "Schönheit im Olympischen Kampf."
From the dawn of filmmaking, actors and crews would form sports teams to play in the downtime between shoots, just for fun. As driven, creative people, they would soon look to increase their competitive advantage in these games (in other words, cheat) by hiring "ringers." This evolved into promotional games with celebrity squads formed by the likes of Buster Keaton and other stars. In 1926, the Motion Picture Athletic Association was established by movie studios including First National, Fox, Pathé, Paramount, MGM, and Warner Bros. to promote their films. They fielded competitive basketball teams that traveled across the country where their movies were playing. One such team played basketball for Universal Pictures and was sponsored by the Recreation and Athletic Association of Southern California. The roster was made up of studio employees and featured 5'3" forward Julius Laemmle, "reputed one of the fastest forwards for his size in the league"—not to mention the son of the studio's production chief, Carl Laemmle, Sr. (and called "Carl Jr.") The Universal Pictures squad even got written up in the Los Angeles Times in 1927: "Big things may be expected from these lads whenever they are in action," the article crowed.¹

Well, big things did indeed happen. In 1928, Laemmle Sr. made Carl Jr. the head of Universal Pictures as a 21st birthday present. "Junior," as he was called, took over film production, developed a theatrical chain, converted the backlot to sound production, upgraded the talent behind the scenes (fewer relatives—Laemmle Sr. wasn't called "Uncle Carl" at the studio for nothing)... and immediately produced a huge bomb with a film version of the novel Show Boat. It was a bad start for a studio trying to reinvent itself during a Depression, but not to be discouraged, Junior immediately went on to produce a string of classic films such as the Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Imitation of Life (1934), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). He was known for producing wildly stylish, extravagant films... and for wildly overspending on them so they never made a profit.

This meant that Junior had precious little time to play hoops in the RAASC. Therefore, Junior used the same tactics to run the studio's basketball team as he did to run the film wing: he built up the Universal roster—filling it with ringers—then switched leagues to the powerful Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), the best basketball association in the country before the NBA and NCAA emerged. On January 12, 1934, The Hollywood Reporter declared, "Junior Laemmle Goes for Sport on Big Scale." He gave orders to the head of the makeup department, Jack Pierce, a former semi-pro baseball player and organizer for the AAU's Southern Pacific Association, to "organize a Universal Pictures basketball team that will meet all comers on the Pacific Coast and throughout the nation if necessary," by February 1st. After hiring all of those ringers, Pierce had no money left over to pay a coach, so he took on that task (as well as being the team's manager) while still running Universal's makeup department (no pressure there). Although the ringers had been recruited for their basketball skills, they could not be paid for playing because they would lose their "amateur" status (and thus their AAU eligibility). Therefore, they were hired as laborers on the lots and given below-the-line positions in areas such as the electrical or camera departments—which served not only as steady work during the Great Depression, but as an open door into the movie business.

Can you spot the ringer? Frank Lubin towers over the M.G.M. team in a film short.

"Feed me:" Pierce and Lubin before a game (New York Daily News, March 31, 1936).
Pierce recruited a number of former UCLA star basketball players to work as grips, best boys and electricians on movie sets—and to play on the studio's "varsity" team, which traveled to various towns and promoted 1935's The Bride of Frankenstein. Pierce would paint 6-foot-7 center Frank Lubin a hideous shade of green and dress him as Frankenstein's monster in Boris Karloff's costume from the film—complete with platform shoes that raised him to seven feet—to entertain the crowds prior to the games. After scaring the kids, Lubin then would head to the locker room, where he and Pierce would scrape off the green makeup, put the neck bolts away, and get ready to play. For his day job, Lubin worked as a grip in Universal's electrical department, earning $50 per week. Lubin was also one of the performers in the MGM Sports Parade short "Basketball Technique" in 1935.

The Universal Pictures squad was very successful, making it all the way to the AAU Finals in 1936, where they lost to an oil refinery team called the Globe Refiners from McPherson, Kansas. After the season, however, basketball was to be featured for the first time as a competitive sport in the Summer Olympics. A qualifying tournament to select the roster for the U.S team was held at Madison Square Garden. Surviving several rounds of elimination, Universal Pictures finally beat the dreaded Globe Refiners by one point for the championship. From those two teams, the very first U.S. Olympic basketball roster was created—plus one collegiate player... making the first 'Dream Team.' Since Olympic rules only allowed for seven players to suit up for a game, the U.S. basketball team was split into two seven-man squads—the "Wild Men" and the "Sure Passers"—who alternated games for each round in the Olympic competition.


The winners of the Olympic tournament. Check out the reach on Lubin!

The Carls
There was some controversy, however. Carl Sr. was Jewish and had been born in the village of Laupheim, Württemberg, Germany. Proud of his heritage but horrified by the events in his homeland, he was in the process of sponsoring family members in Laupheim to emigrate into the U.S.—and escape the Nazis. In order to do this, he had to show that each Laemmle relative could find employment in their new home, and Sr. made sure of it: He hired all of them at his studio. They included directors like his brother Edward Laemmle, nephew Ernst Laemmle and second cousin William Wyler, and actors like his niece, Carla Laemmle, who had the very first lines in Dracula. At one point, 70 Laemmle relatives were working for the studio—some even living on the Universal lot. They may not all have been talented filmmakers, but at least they were safe from Hitler.

All of this is to say that Carl Sr. understandably had reservations about his company's after-hours basketball team traveling to Berlin for a rollicking game of basketball with Hitler's fascist regime, and helping to promote a real monster. U.S. Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage, however, assured the athletes that the games would be free of Nazi propaganda. One Jewish player from Universal, Sam Baiter was asked by Laemmle not to compete, but reasoned, "what kind of propaganda would it be if ... there were no Jews on the American team?" He told the Los Angeles Times, "I don't see any reason why I should not take part in the Olympics. I think the most effective way to enforce our side of the argument is to show Herr Hitler that a Jew has as much right to be an athlete as an Aryan or anyone else."⁴

Laemmle Sr. opposed the US attending the Berlin Games altogether, as he felt that competing in a sporting event with Germany would normalize the Nazis in people's minds and lessen their perceived threat. He convinced one of the team's two Jewish players, Lloyd Goldstein, not to play in Berlin (although during the qualifying tournament, Goldstein had been accused of playing pro baseball and was in danger of losing his amateur Olympic status, anyway). Goldstein stayed behind and kept working his day job at Universal. "Well, he reaped the benefits of that," teammate Art Moller recalled in 1988. "He became the head electrician and he's a millionaire." The other Universal players were anxious to attend, however, and dunk on some Nazis (6'8" teammate Joe Fortenberry of the Globe Refiners performed the first reported slam-dunk while training at New York's West Side Y.M.C.A. for the Olympic Trials, when he "reached up and pitched the ball downward into the hoop, much like a cafeteria customer dunking a roll in coffee," wrote Arthur J. Daley in the New York Times, thus coining the phrase.³)


"Universal Weekly," April 11, 1936 (Courtesy NBCUniversal)

But even getting to Germany proved to be a problem, as a week after winning the tournament the team lost Junior. Modernizing and upgrading a film conglomerate at the end of the Great Depression was a risky move, and Universal had slipped into receivership. Standard Capital Corporation loaned the Laemmles $750,000 for a huge remake of Show Boat—and when film went overbudget and the loan went unpaid. The venture-capital firm took advantage of a clause in their contract with the Laemmles to buy the entire studio for $5.5 million. Junior was forced out a week later, just as production started on his post-Depression masterpiece, the William Powell and Carole Lombard comedy, My Man Godfrey. Standard Capital's J. Cheever Cowdin took over as president and chairman of the board of directors, and instituted severe cuts in production budgets. So you can guess how he felt about financing a studio basketball team: If they were going to Berlin, they had to raise the travel money themselves. The newly-unemployed players were also threatened with legal action by the studio's new regime if they even mentioned the company's name during the games (Universal's films had been banned by the Nazis for the previous three years).

In 1936, Olympic teams were self-funded, so athletes had to pay their own travel expenses. Avery Brundage had hoped that the take from basketball's qualifying tournaments would finance transportation for the entire American Olympic delegation. But by the end of June, Brundage was forced to announce that the AOC still had a funding deficit of $146,000. In fact, after the AOC, Madison Square Garden, and the promoters took their cuts of the tournament profits, the American basketball team hadn't even raised enough to pay for their own tickets. As a result, the roster was cut to fourteen players to save expenses, dropping a McPherson player. Goldstein's vacated spot was left open, as well.⁴ That's when the stars from the film side of Universal Pictures stepped in. The team's trip to Berlin was funded by the likes of Carl Laemmle, Jr. (who was much more excited about the games than his dad), "Frankenstein" director James Whale, actor Boris Karloff and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit animator Walter Lantz.⁴


Thanks to the financial benevolence of Oswald the Rabbit, the US Team sails to Germany.

"LAWRENCE, Kas., Feb. 11 — Basketball teams over the nation are observing Naismith week by raising a fund to send Dr. James Naismith, inventor of basketball, and Mrs. Naismith to the Olympic games at Berlin. This will be the first time the game has been included in the Olympics. Dr. and Mrs. Naismith are shown discussing the early years of basketball as they plan their trip." (AP Wire Photo)
Another person the penny-pinching AOC neglected to invite to the Berlin Games was James Naismith, who had invented the game of basketball in 1891. Unswayed, Naismith still traveled to Germany after teams around the country held fundraisers to pay for his voyage, so that he could hand out the winning medals at his sport's Olympic debut. Naismith was so excited about promoting his creation, in fact, that when Mrs. Naismith suffered a heart attack just before the cruise, he left her behind and went anyway.⁵

The voyage across the Atlantic was boisterous and cheerful—sometimes too cheerful⁶—but practice on the deck was difficult, as they lost several basketballs to the Atlantic Ocean due to errant passes.

The US and Italian teams practice at the Olympic Village in Berlin.

1936 USA RESULTS (5-0)
USA 2 Spain 0 (Forfeit)
USA 52 Estonia 28
USA 56 Philippines 23
USA 25 Mexico 10
USA 19 Canada 8


1. USA (5-0)      Estonia (4-3)
2. Canada (5-2)      Japan (2-5)
3. Mexico (7-1)      Switzerland (4-4)
4. Poland (5-2) 15. Belgium (3-5)
5. Philippines (5-3)      China (4-4)
6. Uruguay (4-4)      Egypt (5-3)
7. Italy (4-4)      France (2-6)
8. Peru (3-5)      Germany (0-7)
9. Brazil (6-2)      Hungary (2-6)
    Chile (4-4)      Latvia (0-7)
    Czechoslovakia (5-3)      Spain (0-7)
The competition in Germany wasn't particularly challenging, anyway. When other countries finally saw the height of the American players, they immediately protested. As a result, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Congress changed the rules of the sport to limit the advantage of taller players. The center jump after each score was eliminated, and the ball was to be brought into play from the end line. Fortunately, a suggestion from the Japanese team to bar any player who was 6'3" or above was defeated.²

The US Team went 5-0 in international competition: Spain forfeited the first match, due to a slight scheduling conflict called the 'Spanish Civil War'. The United States then beat Estonia 52-28, and next re-conquered the Philippines 56-23. Mexico tried a different approach against the US, using a tactic called "defense," and managed to hold the US to 25 points... but they forgot "offense," and only scored 10 themselves. In the Finals, they beat Canada by the ridiculous score of 19-8 for the Gold Medal on a muddy outdoor court: "It was a clay court," recalled Art Mollner. "And of course, the last game was in the rain and you couldn't put the ball on the floor—it would stick—so you had to pass it." Only eight points were scored in the second half.

The ball.
Because of yet another ridiculous Olympic rule, only the "Wild Men," who played in the Finals game, were awarded their medals from Naismith in Berlin, while the "Sure Passers" had to wait to receive their medals by mail. Not your typical Hollywood ending, eh?

I wish I could tell you that Frank Lubin, dressed as Frankenstein's monster, cornered Aldolf Hitler in the bathroom and made him pee himself, or that an invisible Claude Rains snuck into Nazi headquarters and burned up the plans for a German attack on Manhattan with the U-boat commanders watching, mouths agape... but nothing like that happened. Would it help to know that the Germany scratched and forfeited all its games after getting clobbered by a team from the Philippines?⁷

Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, hands out the Gold Medals to the US team.

Buck Jones
Western star Buck Jones presents a trophy to Jack Pierce for the World Amateur Basketball Championship. (Los Angeles Times, 10 Mar 1937)
After the Olympics, the players came home in search of work. Fortunately, the Laemmles (and all of their relatives) were now trying to makeUP movies independently, and Junior wanted to revive one of his most successful projects (no, not a third version of Show Boat); So in 1937, the Wilmington Daily Press-Journal listed Lubin, Shy, Swanson, Knowles and Mollner as playing for the newly-formed Laemmle Studios of Hollywood. According to the The Los Angeles Times, the club was sponsored by Junior Laemmle, managed by Jack Pierce, and a prize was being given for the best suggestion for a new team name at their season opener, which was attended by the Marx Brothers, Harold Lloyd, Gloria Stuart, John Boles, Binnie Barnes, Joe E. Brown, Gertrude Niesen, Boris Karloff, Irene Dunne, Hugh Herbert, Jimmy Dunn and Buck Jones.⁸ The club went by various other names during the year, such as the "Laemmle Olympic Champions" and "Laemmle All-Stars," and they swept a rematch series with Canada, winning the "Amateur World Championship".

An unfortunate "heil" allusion. (Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario, Canada; 19 Feb 1937)
While the Laemmle basketball team was successful, the film side of the studio apparently couldn't get any projects financed. While second cousins Kurt and Max Laemmle went forward and founded Laemmle Theaters in 1938, the two Carls moved on to new ventures, such as self-heating hot dog cans.⁹ More importantly, Laemmle Sr. spent the next two years and a large part of his remaining fortune trying to bring over the entire Jewish population of Laupheim from Germany. Ultimately, some 300 families—over 1,000 people and all of their descendants—owe their lives to his hard work and philanthropy. He continued this mission until he died at home in 1939, surrounded by Junior and the rest of his family. Junior continued his father's mission throughout the duration of World War II.

The 1941 AAU Champion 20th Century Fox team, featuring Lubin, Knowles, and Mollner.
But the members of Junior's Olympic champion basketball team still needed jobs in order to continue playing, and no movies were being made to employ them at Laemmle Studios. So the roster was soon poached by rival film studio Twentieth Century-Fox, where the players went back to working on film sets during the day and winning even more basketball championships by night. "We played with Fox for nine years and we went to the national tournament several times," Mollner recalled. "We won the title one year (the 1941 AAU tournament), we were second one year, and third one year in that national tournament."

Maybe Lubin got work appearing as "The Fly" before games.


Jack Pierce (1889-1968) was head of the Universal's make-up department, and was named the basketball team's manager in 1933. An immigrant from Greece, Pierce traveled west to try out as a shortstop in the Pacific Coast League, and loved all sports. At his day job, he created the make-up designs for Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman and the Mummy. In 1946, Pierce was fired from Universal for refusing to use cost-cutting techniques. He then freelanced on westerns, horror films, and TV shows like "You Are There" and "Mr. Ed".

Frank John Lubin (1910-1999) played for UCLA from 1928 to 1931, then worked as a stagehand at Universal and joined their varsity team. After the 1936 Olympics, Lubin was invited to join Lithuania's national team as a player-coach, and won the EuroBasket title in 1937 and 1939. Lubin was the de facto MVP of EuroBasket 1939, but was declared ineligible because he was too tall. In the US, Lubin left Universal and his Frankenstein gig and played for the Twentieth Century Fox team until 1955. (Photo credit: Los Angeles Public Library)

Samuel Balter Jr. (1909-1998) was the only Jewish-American to win a gold medal at the Berlin Olympics. Balter turned his celebrity into a career as a sportscaster at radio station KLAC (although his most famous call was announcing the end of World War II with Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich at KFWB radio). He was the "voice of UCLA football and basketball" and wrote columns for the Los Angeles Herald-Express. Later he was the announcer for the Los Angeles Stars of the ABA and the Hollywood Stars of the PCL. He also appeared as a sportscaster in many movies and TV shows.

Arthur "Art" Owen Mollner (1912-1995) briefly attended a junior college in Los Angeles, then joined the Los Angeles Police Department. He also played basketball with local AAU teams and eventually became a regular with the Universal Studios team. After the Olympics, he played several years for Twentieth Century Fox in the AAU leagues, Mollner coached the Fibber McGee and Molly basketball team until 1952. He also continued his career with the LAPD until he retired as a sergeant.

Carl Leslie Shy (1908-1991) played in three matches in the Olympics, including the championship. Shy brought home a gold medal but also a fear that "something bad was about to happen in the world." He then had a long career as a captain and detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Before his death, Shy used to bring out the medal at Christmas only because others wanted to see it. He was as quiet and gentle-natured as his surname, "except when he was on the basketball court," according to his niece.

Duane Alexander Swanson (1913-2000) first played for Columbia Studios' team, then in 1934, he signed with Joe E. Brown's All-Stars. In 1935, he joined the Universal squad. After playing in the Olympics, he stayed in Los Angeles, competing for studio teams before returning to the Midwest in 1940. He signed with the NBL's Sheboygan Red Skins, then battled Nazis again during World War II with the Army. Swanson then returned to Southern California and spent the next 25 years working in the entertainment industry.

Carl Stanley Knowles (1910-1981) played for UCLA in the late 20s and early 30s, captaining the team in his senior year. He then played for the Universal Pictures team which won the final Olympic in 1936. He was several times named as AAU All-America and All-Pacific Coast in the late 30s on Universal and Twentieth Century Fox squads. After his basketball days ended he worked for Universal Pictures, mostly as a grip on movie sets. In his later years, he was in ill health much of the time before eventually passing away in 1981.

Donald Arthur Piper (1911-1963) had an illustrious career at UCLA on the Bruin basketball team, and was probably the greatest collegiate player of the 1936 Universal Pictures squad, but he did not play as much afterwards. Piper's business career began with a credit investigation firm but he later worked for a television distributor, eventually rising to general manager of that company. He died rather young, in his early fifties, and the eulogy at his funeral was given by fellow Olympian, Sam Balter.

Lloyd Goldstein was on the 1936 Universal Pictures team but did not play in the trials after accompanying the team to New York City, when an Olympic committee member accused him of playing semi-pro baseball. (Although not mentioned in the complaint, Goldstein also played pro basketball for Detroit in the NPBL.) After his playing career was over, Goldstein remained in Hollywood, where he became the head electritian at Universal Studios and later founded his own company. He became a millionaire and retired to Palm Springs.


Sam Balter G 5-10 150 26 Universal Pictures (UCLA) Los Angeles, CA
Ralph Bishop F 6-3 185 21 University of Washington New York, NY
Joe Fortenberry C 6-8 185 25 McPherson Globe Refiners (West Texas State) Happy, TX
John Gibbons G 6-1 175 28 McPherson Globe Refiners (Southwestern) La Habra, CA
Francis Johnson G 5-11 175 26 McPherson Globe Refiners (Wichita State) Hartford, KS
Carl Knowles F 6-2 165 26 Universal Pictures (UCLA) Los Angeles, CA
Frank(enstein) Lubin F 6-7 250 26 Universal Pictures (UCLA) Glendale, CA
Art Mollner G 6-0 160 23 Universal Pictures (L.A. J.C.) Los Angeles, CA
Don Piper G 5-11 160 25 Universal Pictures (UCLA) Peoria, IL
Jack Ragland G 6-0 175 30 McPherson Globe Refiners (Wichita State) Tucson, AZ
Willard Schmidt C 6-8 190 26 McPherson Globe Refiners (Creighton) Swanton, NE
Carl Shy G 6-0 170 27 Universal Pictues (UCLA) Hollywood, CA
Duane Swanson F 6-2 175 22 Universal Pictues (USC) Waterman, IL
William Wheatley F 6-2 175 27 McPherson Globe Refiners (Kansas Wesleyan) Gypsum, KS
HEAD COACH: James Needles, Universal Pictures (CA)
ASSISTANT COACH: Gene Lee Johnson, McPherson Globe Refiners (KS)
MANAGER: Joseph Rilley, Kansas City Athletic Club (MO)
ATHLETIC TRAINER: Eddie Zanzaai, Princeton University

Notes On This Page:

Can you tell there's a war coming? (Illustrated Daily News, April 7, 1936)
¹—"Universal Cagers Have Good Season," The Los Angeles Times, 09 Feb 1927, Wednesday, Page 43: "The Universal Pictures basketball squad has had up to date a most successful season with the sphere. playing and winning eight consecutive circuit tilts. With but one more contest on the bill, it seems quite probable they will cop the pennant in the six-team league sponsored by the Recreation and Athletic Association of Southern California. The movie quintet consists of 'Doc' Trauger, erstwhile university luminary, at guard; Carl Laemmle, Jr, reputed one of the fastest forwards for his size In the league; Herman Schlom, manager and high-point getter of the team, at forward; Ad Schaumer, a lanky six-footer, at the pivot position; Richard Wanne, a stellar guard; C. Kuntzman, a substitute center; Mel Stern, filling a forward berth, and Murray Rock, captain, getting his floor work as a guard. Big things may be expected from these lads whenever they are in action."

²—"Cage Officials Adopt Rule Limiting Height," Associated Press, in The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; 14 Aug 1936, Friday, Page 12: "Berlin, August 13. (AP) The International Basketball Federation, at the request of a group led by Japan, today established 1.90 metres — 6 feet 2 13-16 inches — as the height limit for players in international competition. While the matter admittedly developed because the Americans in the current Olympic competition are so tall—Bill Schmidt, six feet eight inches, Joe Fortenberry, six feet seven and Frank Lubin and Ralph Bishop six feet six—the ruling probably will not receive approval of the International Olympic Committee, said one I.B.F. delegate. The rule nevertheless will be observed by various European and far eastern members when playing each other. Japan's principal supporters included Mexico and China, while the opposition block was led by the United States and Canada with the assistance of Estonia. American and Canadian representatives said they'd 'forget about it' insofar as their international matches were concerned." Really.

³—"Awesome Kansas Giants Reverse Basketball Lay-Up Shot Process; McPherson Oilers Leap and Hurl Ball Downward to Target, Disdaining Upward Tosses—Schmidt, 6 Feet 9, Tallest of Team in First Workout Here for Olympic Trials," by Arthur J. Daley. The New York Times, March 10, 1936, SPORTS, Page 29: "The McPherson version of a lay-up shot left observers simply flabbergasted. Joe Fortenberry, 6-foot-8-inch center, and Willard Schmidt, 6-foot-9-inch forward, did not use an ordinary curling toss. Not those giants. They left the floor, reached up and pitched the ball downward into the hoop, much like a cafeteria customer dunking a roll in coffee." Dunking For Points Johnson has a pair of centers who can "dunk the ball through the hoop; that Is. they can leap high and push the ball downward through the net. You ran imagine what they can do, also, in the way of defense. These boys arc "Joe College! Fortenberry, formerly or West Texas Teachers, and Willard Schmidt who played his college basketball at Creighton University in Omaha. Joe stands 6 feet 8 Inches high and Schmidt is an inch taller!"

⁴—"Make-up Artist Man Back of Universals: Jack Pierce Finally Realizes Life Ambition as Studio Five Wins Berlin Trip," by Braven Dyer; The Los Angeles Times, 07 Apr 1936, Tuesday, Page 31: "A stubby little make-up artist with a Charley Chaplin mustache was the most excited man in Los Angeles yesterday. Jack Pierce is the name and he's the daddy of the Universal Pictures basketball squad, winner of the Olympic Games basketball trials in New York City. For more than fifteen years Jack has dreamed of the time when one of his teams would bring national honors to Los Angeles. He's dabbled with first one outfit and then another until Sunday night his kids climaxed the greatest fight ever waged by a local quintet to defeat the supposedly invincible McPherson Oilers, and win a trip to Berlin. Jack is head man of the make-up department at Universal. He even carries his art on the basketball floor. One of his favorite stunts is to make-up Frank Lubin, giant, gaunt-looking center, in the role of Frankenstein. Lubin is so constituted that very little make-up is necessary. CADDY WORKS HAPPY Sharing honors with Pierce for the Universals' triumph are Jimmy Needles, coach of the team, and Caddy Works, U.C.L.A. mentor, who groomed no less than five of the seven players on the squad. Needles must be living in a dream today. a few months ago he was out of a job, despondent and discouraged. (Part 2) He came down here from San Francisco and finally caught on temporarily as coach of the Loyola quintet. One day he went to Pierce and asked if he could help with the Universals. 'Sure thing,' said Pierce, 'but you'll just have to string along with us; there's no money to be had.' TAKES A CHANCE Needles took a chance, went to Denver for the A.A.U. tournament, coached the team to the finals and then shoved off for New York. Now he's coach of the squad which will introduce basketball to the Olympics. I have always maintained that Caddy Works plays in tough luck because his players are younger than those at competing universities. The Bruins invariably go great guns for half a game, but generally lose out because of lack of stamina, due to extreme youth, There must be some logic In this because there are five former TJ.C. LA. players on the Universal quintet and none of them is very old now. In addition to Lubin, who graduated in 1931 as ace guard of the team, there is Carl Knowles, captain of the 1931 U.C.L.A. squad; Sammy Baiter, leader of the 1929 quintet; Don Piper, captain of the 1934 tossers, and Carl Shy, guard in 1930. ONLY SUBS THEN All but Piper actually played together in 1929, but oddly enough Shy, Knowles and Lubin were only substitutes. Lubin was very awkward and was known as the "Lumbering Lithuanian." Years of play with club teams worked wonders and now Lubin ranks as one of the greatest centers in the country and a fine scorer. The other members who go to Berlin are Duane Swanson, the kid who came out from Iowa to enter S.C. and then fell by the wayside, and Art Moellner, formerly of the Los Angeles Junior College. Lloyd Goldstein, who used to play in West Virginia, was with the team in New York,, but for some reason won't go to Berlin. Pierce does not know this reason. BOOST FOR GAME HERE The surprising thing about the Universal victory is that we are not supposed to be much on basketball out this way. That Los Angeles could produce a team capable of whipping the best in the country for Olympic honors is a tremendous boost for the game here. It was a tragic moment for Pierce when he received word while in Denver that the studio demanded his return to Los Angeles. Otherwise Jack would have been with his boys in the hour of their greatest victory. He talked to them all by phone early yesterday morning. STARS HELP OUT The Universal studio employs most of the players as stage hands. However, the studio itself gave the team no financial backing, and Pierce had to secure the funds for the eastern invasion. Among the studio people who helped were Irene Dunne, Buck Jones, James Whale, Carl Laemmle, Jr., Leroy Prinz. Edward Everett Horton, Binnle Barnes. John Leroy Johnson, Curly Robinson, Henry McCrae, Otto Lederer, Bill Koenig, Walter Lantz, Efie Asher and Allen Jones. Pierce doubts if he can mane the Berlin trip with his boys, but hopes to pit the squad against an all-star local team when the players return here next week. THIRTEEN WESTERNERS TO INVADE BERLIN NEW YORK, April 6. (UPJ Thirteen western sharpshooters will represent the United States in the Olympic basketball series in Berlin this summer the first time in history the court game has been included as a championship competition. It had been intended to name fifteen players but the tournament failed to draw as much money as had been expected so the team was cut to fourteen to save expenses. Then, after last night's game, it was announced that Lloyd Goldstein of the Universals would be unable to go to Berlin because of business reasons, so the committee decided to leave the squad at thirteen. The squad, coached by Jim Needles, whose Universal team whipped the McPherson Oilers, 44-43, in last night's final, follows: Universal—Art Molner, Don Piper, Carl Knowles and Sam Balter, forwards; Frank Lubin, center; Carl Shy and Duane Swanson, guards. McPherson Oilers—Francis Johnson and Tex Gibbons, forwards; Joe Fortenberry, center; Jack Ragland and Bill Wheatley, guards. University of Washington—Ralph Bishop, center. Gene Johnson, coach of McPherson, was named assistant coach. Dr. J. A. Reilly, Kansas City, was named team manager. The alternate squad follows: University of Washington—Ed Loverich, Bobe Eirge, Charles Wagner. Temple—Don Shields. De Paul of Chicago—Ed Campion. Utah State—Kent Ryan and Ed Wade. Wilmerding (P.) Y.M.C.A.—Fred Crum and Tommy Evans. University of Arkansas—Ike Pool and Jim Lee Howell. McPherson Oilers—Willard Schmidt and Vernon Vaughn. Sammy Balter, chunky Universal forward, is the only Jewish player on the first squad. He said today he was eager to go to Germany. "While I certainly resent the national policies of the Nazi government," he said, "I don't see any reason why I should not take part in the Olympics. I think the most effective way to enforce our side of the argument is to show Herr Hitler that a Jew has as much right to be an athlete as an Aryan or anyone else."

⁵—Unfortunately, the IOC also failed to offer Naismith a pass so that he could get inside the facility to see any of the games: "Berlin Cagers Open In Midst Argument; Claim Dr. Naismith Ignored by U. S. Committee in Tribute Due Him," Associated Press, via Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln, Nebraska; 08 Aug 1936, Saturday; Page 5: "BERLIN. (AP) In a four ring circus augmented by a colorful ceremony—in which all countries ceremoniously honored Dr. James A. Naismith of the University of Kansas, founder of the game—the Olympiad's first basketball competition started Friday with 10 games all of which ran true to form. Interest from the American standpoint was limited to the fact that the United States and the Philippines both drew a bye. What developed startlingly, however, was the charge by Jim Tobin, New York basketball official who is one of the Olympiad referees, that Dr. Naismith had apparently been completely ignored by the American Olympic committee, headed by Avery Brundage. 'Dr. Naismith arrived In Germany without even a pass to see a game,' Tobin said. 'We managed to get him a pass for all games, but it was not thru the American Olympic committee's efforts. He was ignored there and his name stricken from the pass list. What's more, no ceremony was planned for Dr. Naismith, who is naturally the most important figure in basketball.'" (Fortunately, the teams would see to it that he was seated courtside for every game, and would honor him with a special assembly and Olympic laurel that he wore all night during the closing festivities.)

⁶—Hollywood intruded again: The AOC dismissed 1932 swimming gold medalist Eleanor Holm mid-trip for missing her curfew after an "all-night party" with screenwriter Charles MacArthur. Both were married and denied the charges, while Brundage claimed that Holm had been discovered "in an alcoholic coma." (Years later, Holm claimed that Brundage had kicked her off the team because he had propositioned her, and she had turned him down.) Holm stayed with the Olympians, to Brundage's dismay, and worked during the games as a journalist. "STAR SWIMMER DROPPED FROM OLYMPIC TEAM; American Girl Refuses to Leave For Home Despite Order," by Alan Gould, Associated Press Sports Editor, via The Daily Times Davenport, Iowa; 24 Jul 1936, Friday; Page 20: "BERLIN, July 24. (Associated Press) Lovely Eleanor Holm Jarrett, fun loving swimming ace, lost a frantic appeal for reinstatement on the American Olympic team today. A sub-committee headed by Dr. Joseph E. Raycroft of Princeton, heard the swimmer's tearful plea as special trains carried the American team from Hamburg to Berlin but ruled that the decision which dropped Mrs Jarrett from the squad for repeated violation of training rules forbidding drinking and late hours must stand. Warned previously for her participation in an all-night party in which one of her escorts was Charles MacArthur, playwright-husband of the actress Helen Hayes, Mrs Jarrett drew down upon her head the wrath of the Olympic committee by another escapade yesterday. A number of non-Olympic passengers attended the party at which MacArthur was present. Miss Hayes was not present."

⁷—"Olympic Basketball Will Have 22 Teams Competing," Brooklyn Citizen, July 21, 1936, p. 6: "BERLIN, July 21.—Twenty-two nations have entered the Olympic basketball tournament, it was announced to-day. Late scratches were Great Britain, Germany and Bulgaria. Germany decided not to participate after a provisional team was badly beaten by Japan and the Philippine Islands."

Would it also help to know that when they started hanging Nazis for war crimes after World War II, they did it inside the Olympic basketball facilities in Berlin?

⁸—"Olympic Games Cage Champs In Debut Sunday," in The Los Angeles Times, 20 Dec 1936, Sunday; Page 25: "Basketball's world champions, who, while performing under the name of Universal Pictures last summer won the Olympic Games crown, make their season's debut next Sunday at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium where they will meet the Salt Lake Goodyears, Rocky Mountain A.A U. title-holders. Managed by Jack Pierce and sponsored by Junior Laemmle, the Los Angeles squad is rated even stronger than last year's team. In addition Frank Lubin, high-scoring center; Carl Knowles, forward: Carl Shy, Art Mollner, Duane Swanson and Lloyd Goldstein, guards, the team is bolstered by the presence of Jack Hupp, former Trojan forward, and Wayne Nix. a sensational forward at Black-Foxe last winter. Sunday's game marks the first time the Pan-Pacific Auditorium has been used for basketball. It will seat 7500 fans. The auditorium also will be the home court of the Trojans and U.C.L.A. Bruins this winter. Pierce is seeking a new name for his basketball outfit, and a prize will be given for the accepted suggestion."

"Cage Teams Play Tonight; Laemmle Champions Face Goodyear at Pan-Pacific Arena," The Los Angeles Times, 27 Dec 1936, Sunday; Part II, Page 11: "Manager Jack Pierce sends the identical squad out on the floor tonight which achieved world championship honors last summer at the Olympic Games... The team is sponsored by Carl Laemmle, Jr., motion-picture producer and sportsman, and is touted as the strongest array of casaba talent ever assembled locally. Frank Lubin, giant ex-Bruin center; Carl Knowles and Carl Shy, also former Bruin stars; Jack Hupp, last year's Trojan ace; Art Mollner, all-conference L.A.J.C. guard, and Duane Swanson are due to start tonight for the Olympic quintet. The motion-picture world will be assembled in the audience tonight, according to Pierce, among the stars being Harold Lloyd, Gloria Stuart, John Boles, Binnie Barnes, Joe E. Brown, Gertrude Niesen, Boris Karloff, Irene Dunne, Hugh Herbert, Jimmy Dunn and Buck Jones."

"Los Angeles Laemmles, Olympic Champions, Arrive Late Today For Playoff With Fords; First Game Tomorrow Night," By Vern DeGeer, The Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario, Canada; 19 Feb 1937, Friday; Page 27: "California's invading contingent undoubtedly represents the greatest men's basketball machine ever brought to Canadian court. Its roster is comprised of players of imposing height, speed, weight and experience. Laemmles have been defeated only once in 10 starts this season. The single setback was in the opening test against Goodyears of Salt Lake City. Utah. In a later engagement, Laemmles routed Goodyears by a wide margin. Latest of their conquests was University of Southern California, 39-38. Shortly before that the Los Angeles Trojans had defeated the strong Stanford University five. From College Ranks A majority of the invading team has had experience in major college basketball circles, chiefly with California schools. Jack Hupp, a newcomer to the team this season, served three years with Southern California's varsity hoopsters. Wayne Nix is another newcomer. The others, Carl Shy, Duane Swanson, Frank Lubin, Art Mollner, Lloyd Goldstein, and Carl Knowles, performed for the team last year when it was known as Los Angeles Universal Pictures. This winter the team is under the sponsorship of Carl Laemmle, Jr., film producer and sportsman. Last summer the Universals combined with McPherson Oilers to form the United States basketball contingent to the Olympic Games tournament in Berlin. Seven players were taken from each club. Only Knowles and Shy of the invading Californians appeared in the final game against Windsor Fords. The others got into earlier tournament games. Jimmy Stewart, Ian Allison. Gordie Aitchison and "Red" Wiseman were the Windsor players in the title game. Doug Peden, Art and "Chuck" Chapman of Victoria Dominoes completed the local team. Fortenberry. towering centre of McPherson Oilers, collected eight points for the U.S. team in its 19-8 win over Canada."

"Second Guesses," by Pressly, Wilmington Daily Press Journal, California, 12 Mar 1937, Friday; Page 2: "At least 10 players from the U.S. Olympic basketball squad will be on hand for the 1937 national cage tourney in Denver, Colo., and step forward in Olympic regalia to receive the crowd's salute at the colorful opening ceremonies Monday night (March 15), in which the various teams from California to New York will pass in review. Five of these Olympic stars, formerly with Universal Pictures, will represent the Laemmle Studios of Hollywood—Frank Lubin, Carl Shy, Duane Swanson, Carl Knowles and Art Mollner."

"Olympic Stars On New Teams," Evening_News, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; 09 Mar 1937: "Denver, March 9—At least ten players from the United States Olympic basketball squad will be on hand for the 1937 national cage tourney and step forward in Olympic regalia to receive the crowd's salute at the colorful opening ceremonies Monday night., March 15, in which the various teams from California to New York will pass in review. Five of these Olympic stars, formerly with Universal Pictures, will represent the LaemmleStudios of Hollywood., Frank Lubin, Carl Shy, Duane Swanson, Carl Knowles and Art Mollner."

⁹—"Note to Housewives: Self-Heating Cans Of Food To Be Available In U.S. Soon," by Frederick C. Othman, Nevada State Journal, Sunday, Dec. 11, 1938; Page 9: "The always-hot-Laemmle dinner is simplicity itself. The hotdogs or whatever come in tin cans with false bottoms. Punch a hole in the latter and air mingles with mysterious chemicals within, causing heat. Then turn the can over, open it in the ordinary way and there are your boiling hotdogs, peas, or lobster thermidor."

Further Reading:

  • Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler's Germany by Andrew Maraniss; Philomel Books; Illustrated edition (November 5, 2019): From the New York Times bestselling author of Strong Inside comes the remarkable true story of the birth of Olympic basketball at the 1936 Summer Games in Hitler's Germany. Perfect for fans of The Boys in the Boat and Unbroken. On a scorching hot day in July 1936, thousands of people cheered as the U.S. Olympic teams boarded the S.S. Manhattan, bound for Berlin. Among the athletes were the 14 players representing the first-ever U.S. Olympic basketball team. As thousands of supporters waved American flags on the docks, it was easy to miss the one courageous man holding a BOYCOTT NAZI GERMANY sign. But it was too late for a boycott now; the ship had already left the harbor.
  • Universal Pictures, 'Frankenstein,' And Basketball: The Story Of The First U.S. Olympic Team, by Martin Kessler, Producer, Only A Game, WBUR Radio.
  • USA Men's Basketball, Games of the XIth Olympiad—1936; Berlin, Germany; August 1-16, 1936 (Posted June 10, 2010).
  • Netting Out Basketball 1936: The Remarkable Story of the McPherson Refiners, the First Team to Dunk, Zone Press, and Win the Olympic Gold Medal by Rich Hughes; FriesenPress (November 10, 2011): 1936 was the most significant year in basketball's first half century. For the first time, Olympic basketball ended with a gold medal game. Dr. James Naismith was honored at the Berlin Olympics for his wonderful invention, as basketball achieved widespread international acceptance in a short period of time. 45 years after creating an exciting indoor sport for a physical education class, Naismith watched 23 countries vie for the gold. Boycotts protested Hitler's policies within the Olympic host country of Germany, and as a result, politics and sports were forever linked.
  • An Olympian's oral history : Arthur O. Mollner, 1936 Olympic Games, basketball, interviewed in May, 1988 at Westlake Village by George A.Hodak. LA84 Foundation Digital Library Collection (PDF).
  • My Jewish Grandpa's Triumph At Hitler's Olympics, by Carrie Kahn, heard on "Morning Edition" (NPR), August 8, 2008.
  • Bruins, Basketball and the Nazi Games, UCLA Bruin Alumni Newsletter; Posted April, 2020.
  • Sporting Labor in the Hollywood Studio System: Basketball, Universal Pictures, and the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Alex Kupfer.
  • The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball: The AAU Tournament, 1921-1968 by Adolph H. Grundman ; Bison Books (October 1, 2004): The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) has long symbolized the idealism of amateur athletic competition. For basketball especially, the AAU provided an opportunity for athletes to showcase their skills for the benefit of the team and the sport, not the bottom line. Grundman recounts the history of the AAU National Tournament during its golden age, 1921 through 1968. Grundman analyzes the early tournaments, examining rule changes, key players, and dominant teams. He explores the rivalries between corporations for amateur dominance after 1935, the competition between the AAU and the National Collegiate Athletic Association for representation in Olympic basketball, the question of just how amateur "amateur" basketball really was, and the reasons for the demise of postcollegiate amateur basketball.
  • Berlin Olympics a breakthrough for Canadian basketball, by Tony Atherton, Postmedia News; Posted August 9, 2011 7:49 am.
  • 1936 Olympic Basketball Gold Medal, on Antiques Roadshow, PBS; Posted May 30, 2015 (APPRAISED VALUE: $25,000 Auction — $50,000 Insurance).
  • "Do You Want to Own a 1936 Olympic Gold Medal? 'Uncle Carl's is Up for Auction", by Marcia Smith, Dec. 10, 2015, Orange County Register.
  • 1936 Joe C. Fortenberry's U.S. Basketball Olympic Gold Medal, on Antiques Roadshow, PBS; Posted July 23, 2016 (APPRAISED VALUE: $100,000 Auction — $175,000 Insurance).
  • Mud, Wind, and a 'Soggy Ball': The Story of the USA's First Basketball Gold Medal, by Graham MacAree, SBNATION, 08 Dec 2020. © Vox Media, LLC.
  • Group photo of the 20th Century Fox basketball team, from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection: Back row, from left to right: Ken Redding, guard; Roy Lovitt, forward; Frank Lubin, center; Carl Knowles; Bob Brown, guard; and Bud Fisher, manager. Front row, from left to right: Don Morgan; John Carroll, forward; Art Mollner, guard; and Jack Hupp, center and forward. Photo dated: March 19, 1940."
  • 20th-Century-Fox National Champions: "Winners of 14 out of 17 games on their transcontinental tour completed last Saturday night, the Twentieth Century-Fox's National A.A.U. basketball champions make their first local appearance since winning the title. Pictured are, front row: Fon Johnson and Les O'Gara. Back row, left to right: All-American Center Frank Lubin, Art Molner, All-American Carl Knowles and Ed McGrath. Photo dated: December 19, 1941."
  • Carla Laemmle: 'Growing up on the Universal lot, near the New York street, was like a dream come true'," Film Talk, November 6, 2016. "We arrived here in January 1921 and moved right to Universal, which had only been here for six years. All around the studio, there was this wild country—no hotels or buildings or anything. At night you could even hear the coyotes. At Universal, there were only two houses on the front lot of the studio property: the police chief lived in one of them, the fire chief in the other. When they moved out, we moved in: my mother, my father, my grandmother, and me. On the front, our house had a huge, green lawn. It was all so wonderful and amazing; there was also a driveway and a double-garage. It was a charming, little house. The location was wonderful, you had the mountains behind Universal and the zoo in the back of the property where they just had about any animal you could imagine. You'd wake up in the morning, hearing the lions roar. I lived on the Universal lot until 1936, when my uncle had to sell the studio."
  • The High Times and Hard Fall of Carl Laemmle Jr." by Farran Smith Nehme Film Comment, on May 27, 2016: "I wonder what Junior thought when the good reviews and sterling box office figures for Show Boat, the film that 'broke the studio,' came in. James Whale certainly had good reason to regret Junior's exit when The Road Back, his sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front, was drastically recut by the new bosses in order to stave off German threats of a boycott... the onetime clotheshorse [Carl, Jr.] was buried in a t-shirt and scarf. There was a lien on his mansion and the estate had dwindled to almost nothing. Even his Oscar for All Quiet on the Western Front disappeared from his bedroom and has never been recovered... It's impossible to look at Junior's output in just seven years at Universal and not wonder what he might have accomplished with another chance. Given how many years he spent doing nothing post-Universal, maybe Junior didn't really want to keep working. Many, possibly even most, Hollywood careers wind up seeming too brief. MoMA is encouraging cinephiles to look at how brightly Junior Laemmle's career burned while it lasted."
  • Laemmle's List: A Mogul's Heroism," by Neal Gabler, The New York Times, April 11, 2014. "Carl Laemmle, a founder of Universal Pictures, underwrote or assisted the emigration of many Jews from Germany as the Third Reich grew."
  • Game Ball up for auction (2020), in case you're anxious to dribble in mud.
  • Jack Pierce, Basketball Manager from the 'Jack Pierce Makeup Memorial' tribute page.
  • How Universal Studios Employees Won an Olympic Gold Medal by Laemmle descendent Antonia Carlotta.

Jeffrey C. Hause has written professionally (in a very amateur fashion) for entertainers like Jay Leno, Jim Carrey, Rodney Dangerfield, Gabe Kaplan, Rick Dees and people he'd rather not tell you about. He's also written screenplays for producers like Ivan Reitman, Richard Donner, Ray Stark, Lawrence Turman, and Samuel Goldwyn Jr., at Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal, Columbia, Franchise Pictures and Interscope. Here's his résumé. You can e-mail him at jeff@sportshollywood.com.

sports | hollywood | columns | about us | store | ComedyOnTap | newsletter | links
Copyright © 2001-2021 SportsHollywood.com, All Rights Reserved.