Aug. 15--Peanuts, cracker jacks and fans cheering in the summer heat.
American's greatest pastime entertained fans at the baseball field and that love migrated to Hollywood.
Off the screen, actress Laraine Day, popular for her role as Nurse Mary Lamont in the Dr. Kildare film series, was known as the First Lady of Baseball in the 1940s and 1950s.
Day was married to baseball manager Leo Durocher while he was managing the New York Giants.
She would also host a 15 minute television show called a Day with the Giants, which was shown prior to home games.
Even though the couple divorced in 1960, Day accepted a posthumous award when Durocher was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.
On the screen, numerous films and cartoons depicted the love of the game.
From Bugs Bunny being born under the Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodger and harassing the players, or Gary Cooper giving Lou Gehrig's "luckiest man on the face of the Earth" speech, baseball lit up the silver screen.
Here are just a few classic baseball films:
-Pride of the Yankees (1942) -- The film is based on the life of Lou Gehrig, the New York Yankees baseball player who's career spanned from 1923 until 1939. Gary Cooper portrays Gehrig and Teresa Wright plays his wife Eleanor. The movie begins with his childhood and follows his baseball career including run-ins with the great Babe Ruth. Cooper does an excellent job in the film and brings me to tears with his "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Planet" speech. The real Lou Gehrig died a year before this film was released in 1941 at the age of 37 of what is now known as Lou Gehrig's diseases.
As far as biographical films go, this is one of the better ones. While some actors look nothing like the person they are portraying in a biopic, Cooper and Gehrig look amazingly similar.
Gary Cooper plays the role with so much heart. However, he wasn't a baseball fan and had to have extensive coaching to look believable playing the game.
Both Wright and Cooper were nominated for Best Actor Academy Awards for the film and the movie was nominated for Best Picture.
-The Stratton Story (1949) -- Another biographical film based on a baseball player, this time Monty Stratton who was a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox from 1934 to 1938. Jimmy Stewart plays the role of Stratton and June Allyson plays his wife Ethel. "The Stratton Story" is one of three films Stewart and Allyson would star in together and many fans believed they were really husband and wife because of their chemistry. Stratton was the most winningest right hander and developed a trick pitch called the Gander. However, his career was shortened by a hunting accident that forced doctors to amputate his leg. Ethel works with Monty, encouraging him to wear his prosthetic wooden leg and work on trying to pitch again. The real Stratton had a comeback from 1946 to 1953 in the minor leagues and coached for the White Sox. The film follows his struggles of adapting to the prosthetic so he could try to play again.
"The Stratton Story" is a good film, especially because of its cast that is rounded out with Henry Morgan and Agnes Moorehead.
-Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) -- Though I'm a huge fan of musicals, this one starring swimming star Esther Williams, dancer Gene Kelly and crooner Frank Sinatra isn't a favorite. Set in 1908, K.C. Higgins inherits the fictional baseball team, the Wolves. The ballplayers believe K.C. is a man and are surprised to find that it is a beautiful, savvy woman (Williams). Two players, Dennis Ryan (Sinatra) and Eddie O'Brien (Kelly) begin fighting for her attention.
The movie is silly and Williams looks awkward in early 1900s period outfits when you are used to seeing her in a swimsuit. She swims once in the film, but it's not like her usual swimming extravaganza.
In her autobiography, Williams wrote that making the film was an unhappy experience and that Kelly and choreographer Stanley Donen were rude to her.
The movie was originally supposed to star Judy Garland, who had to be taken out of the film. Then June Allyson and Kathryn Grayson were considered for the roles. All of these ladies were petite and barely over 5'4" compared to the athletic swimmer Esther Williams who was 5'10." Williams also wrote that she wondered if her height made the 5'7" Kelly uncomfortable.
-The Babe Ruth Story (1948)- William Bendix plays Babe Ruth in this biographical film. At the time it was released, the movie got poor reviews and hasn't improved with time.
Ruth's baseball career began in 1914 playing for the Boston Red Sox and ended in 1935 with the Boston Braves. The film mainly follows Ruth during his time with the New York Yankees from 1920 to 1934.
The production of the film was rushed so it would be released before the Great Bambino died. It was released in July of 1948 and Ruth died in August 1948. Though Ruth was dying, he was still able to attend the premiere. The movie was commercially released in September of 1948.
As I'm trying to write about this film, it's hard to find anything to say about it. It's just so bad that I have no words.
Ruth is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time and the movie about him is considered the worst sports film of all time.
Film columns by Jessica Pickens run every Sunday in The Shelby Star.
Reach Jessica Pickens at 704-669-3332 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at @StarJPickens and at her film blog, Comet Over Hollywood atwww.cometoverhollywood.com
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