Guide to Baseball Films: The 1940s
- The Babe Ruth Story. (1948) Dir. Roy Del Ruth. George Ruth, in addition to winning several home run titles, heals an invalid boy, rescues a wounded dog, and gives up his life for medical science.
Easily the worst baseball movie ever made, this picture is nonetheless pure concentrated American kitsch, oddly and infuriatingly memorable.
- It Happens Every Spring. (1949) Dir. Lloyd Bacon. Absent-minded professor stumbles on a formula that makes him an unhittable pitcher; it's the ticket to riches and to marrying the college president's daughter, but can he live down the shame of playing major league baseball?
A comedy that remains amiable sixty years later. Ray Milland as the "young" professor and Paul Douglas as the "old" veteran catcher who mentors him develop a good rapport. (In real life, Milland was two years older than Douglas.) Later novelized by screenwriter Valentine Davies.
- The Pride of the Yankees. (1942) Dir. Sam Wood. Lou Gehrig grows to manhood, wins the love of Eleanor Twitchell, stars for the Yankees, and says farewell when he is stricken by disease.
Supposedly inspired by Sam Goldwyn's sense of the dramatic in Gehrig's real-life farewell speech, this film builds toward that moment and makes the most of its dramatic potential. Gehrig's story is reconfigured as domestic drama and anchored firmly on the larger-than-life persona of Gary Cooper. The film features a notable performance by Babe Ruth as Babe Ruth.
- The Stratton Story. (1949) Dir. Sam Wood. Monty Stratton grows to manhood, wins the love of an Omaha girl named Ethel, stars for the White Sox, loses a leg in a hunting accident, and works his way back to the pitcher's mound.
James Stewart makes the most of the role of Stratton, but the picture overall is a highly routine inspirational biopic.
- Take Me Out to the Ballgame. (1949) Dir. Busby Berkeley. O'Brien, Ryan, and Goldberg lead the Wolves to the pennant, and O'Brien and Ryan, at least, find love.
One of the lesser Arthur Freed/Roger Edens musicals for M-G-M. The songs by Edens (several with lyricists Betty Comden & Adolph Green) are forgettable, Gene Kelly as shortstop O'Brien mugs too much, and Esther Williams as owner and love interest K.C. Higgins spends too much time on dry land. The central premise -- that O'Brien and Ryan (Frank Sinatra) are both ballplayers and show-biz types -- is actually quite plausible; Mike Donlin, for instance, is only the most prominent of several stars who have pages at both Baseball-Reference and the IMDb.