This coming Monday October 17 at 930A EDT, the original "Angels in the Outfield" (1951) airs on the Turner movie channel TCM. Rarely mentioned in the pantheon of baseball films, "Angels" has many fine performances starting with Paul Douglas as the profane manager of the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates who
is humanized by Janet Leigh, a manners reporter for a local newspaper.
Bruce Bennett - born Herman Brix, a silver medalist in the shotput at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, and briefly a movie Tarzan - plays a key supporting role as a gritty starting pitcher. Some of the film was shot on location at Forbes Field during Branch Rickey's first of five unsuccessful years trying to turn around the undermanned Pittsburgh franchise.
The film was originally entitled "Angels and The Pirates" but the producers decided it would be false advertising if overseas viewers thought they were getting a swashbuckling adventure movie.
Uncredited, James Whitmore plays the voice of the angel who does his part in taming Douglas's
I won't spoil the film any more if you haven't seen it. I'm not saying you might find it too hokey and
corny. I must admit that Keenan Wynn's sportswriter is over-the-top and the orphaned Donna Corcoran might be a little too cute.
But I do want to mention that director Clarence Brown was a major Hollywood player, dating back to his role in guiding Greta Garbo to her first stardom. You also don't want to miss cameo appearances by Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb, and the baseball-obsessed songwriter Harry Ruby.
Am interested in your opinions on the film. So please post comments on the blog page.
While watching the endless parade of pitchers in the MLB playoff games, I thought a lot about Bruce Bennett's Saul Hellman, the starting pitcher in "Angels" who yearns to complete his games. In
today's baseball, it is a minor victory for baseball traditionalists when a starting pitcher goes into the 6th inning let alone completes it.
I'm not against new information on pitching and hitting, but there is definitely such a thing as Too Much
Information (TMI) and PBA (Paralysis By Analysis). Maybe it is inevitable given the power arms that every team seemingly posseses these days, but I am saddened if not downright angered by the number of strikeouts that are accepted as the norm in today's game.
I'm posting this blog with the Cleveland AL team (aka the Guardians, formerly Indians) having knotted the best-of-five series with the Yankees. They could advance to the ALCS by the end of the weekend but they'll have to score more runs than usual.
They do strike out the least of all the playoff teams and play good defense with solid pitching so they have a chance. They wil have to contain Aaron Judge who is ready to break out after striking out a lot in
Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS before the impatient if not downright boorish home Yankee fans.
I am drawn by nature to underdog teams with the most hunger and the most to prove. Take a player like Phillies second baseman (once shortstop) Jean Segura, the position player who had appeared in the most MLB games without appearing in the post-season.
The Phillies can dethrone the Braves later today but that is hardly a gimme. Even if they lose today, I predict they won't go down easily in a game 5 at Atlanta.
The Mariners hadn't been in a playoff since 2001 when winners of 116 games, Seattle bowed to the
Yankees in the ALCS. They lost two close games in Houston and before a packed house at home today,
I think the can handle the battle-tested Astros. I kinda doubt they can do it twice, but that's why they
play the games, to find out who's best.
I still want Houston's Dusty Baker to earn his first World Series win as a manager, but I don't want underdogs ever to be embarrassed. The Padres have a chance tonight to exorcise the dominance of their haughty big brothers of the North, the LA Dodgers.
Behind proud local boy Joe Musgrove, they may have the pitcher to lead the way. Whatever happens,
like the upstart Phillies, the Padres should make a winner-takes-all Game 5 very competitive.
Before I close, here are a couple of more TCM tips for the next week or so.
Tues Oct 18 back-to-back early 1940s Hollywood anti-Nazi films.
4p "The Mortal Storm" with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. My most vivid memory of this one is
watching CBS TV's "The Early Show" before dinner and Dan Dailey - years before he played Dizzy Dean
in the utterly forgettable "Pride of St. Louis" appears as a Nazi bookburner sitting afire Heinrich Heine.
6p "So Ends The Night" written by Erich Maria Remarque who shot to fame with the book
and later movie "All Quiet on the Western Front". The haunting Ms. Sullavan appears in this one, too.
This is Hollywood after all, but on my first viewing I thought two Gentiles, Sullavan and Glenn Ford, gave creditable performances as aspiring Jews escaping from eastern Europe. Also with Fredric March.
BTW I highly recommend Scott Eyman's, "Hank and Jim" (Simon and Schuster, 2017). Subtitled
accurately "The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart." Fonda was briefly married
to Sullavan and Stewart held life-long affection for her (as seen in the original "Shop Around The Corner"). In an adversarial age like ours, their friendship despite political disagreements is good
to know about and learn from.
Tues Oct 20 630p documentary on film director Val Lewton
8p "Salt of the Earth" 1954, about an union organizing effort in Mexico directed by Herbert Biberman
10p "A King in New York" Charlie Chaplin's 1957 return to the screen in USA
Fri Oct 21 930A "College Coach" (1933) In a rarity, pre-Noir Dick Powell morphs into fiery football coach
6p "Knute Rockne" (1940) Pat O'Brien in title role, Ronald Reagan as the Gipper
That's all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it, and especially these days:
Stay positive, test negative.