BIG LEAGUER (director: Robert Aldrich; screenwriters: Herbert Baker/from a story by John McNulty and Louis Morheim; cinematographer: William Mellor; editor: Ben Lewis; music: Alberto Colombo; cast: Edward G. Robinson (John B. “Hans” Lobert), Vera-Ellen (Christy), Jeff Richards (Adam Polachuk), Mario Siletti (Mr. Polachuk), Paul Langton (Brian McLennan), Lalo Rios (Chuy), William Campbell (Julie Davis), Richard Jaeckel (Bobby Bronson), Frank Ferguson (Wally Mitchell), Bill Crandall (Tippy Mitchell), Carl Hubbell (Himself), Al Campanis (Himself), Tony Ravish (Himself), Bob Trocolor (Himself); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Matthew Rapf; Warner Archive Collection; 1953)
“The boring bush league baseball melodrama tosses softball batting practice pitches, as it tells of a lost era when baseball was the national past-time.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Robert Aldrich(“Kiss Me Deadly”/”Too Late the Blues”/”The Choirboys”) makes his directing debut at age 34 in this low-budget gentle routine baseball pic. It’s modeled after another gimmicky sports pic, The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), and also brings to the plate no controversy. The boring bush league baseball melodrama tosses softball batting practice pitches, as it tells of a lost era when baseball was the national past-time and young men dreamed of playing in the Big Leagues. It should appeal to those who crave baseball nostalgia, the old Polo Grounds, can still jump for joy at the Giants’ Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard around the world” to beat the Dodgers in baseball’s greatest comeback to win the 1951 pennant and can appreciate a cameo by the Giants legendary pitcher Carl Hubbell (hey, that’s what I liked best about this corny, stilted and dated flick). The great thespian Edward G. Robinson, viewed by the commie witch-hunters in Congress as a liberal sympathizer, is at the low point of his marvelous career, no longer able to get top roles. Robinson’s the only recognized actor in this B film, who plays an avuncular retired player in charge of evaluating talent for the Giants at their winter instructional facility. Herbert Baker writes the screenplay, that’s based on a story by John McNulty and Louis Morheim.
The story is told through the eyes of hero-worshiping sports reporter Brian McLennan (Paul Langton). It’s set in the New York Giants’ training camp in Melbourne, Florida, where 200 young invited applicants (such as the son of an immigrant Pennsylvania coal miner Adam Polachuk (Jeff Richards), a brash speaking city boy outfielder hotshot (William Campbell), the mediocre playing son of a former baseball star (Bill Crandall), a cocky pitcher (Richard Jaeckel) and a Spanish only speaking gifted Cuban player –Lalo Rios) vie for a few weeks for pro baseball contracts with the Giant farm teams at $150 a month. The training camp is run by the crusty but kind-hearted ex-Giant third baseman John B. “Hans” Lobert (Edward G. Robinson), who is visited in camp by his baseball loving sweet single niece Christy (Vera-Ellen).
The pic follows the story of hunky best prospect Adam Polachuk, a third-baseman. Adam dates Christy, but is troubled that his immigrant father (Mario Siletti) wants him to go to college instead of playing ball. This story is a yawner. But the pic is as easy to handle as watching a San Francisco Giant ballgame in the bleachers and feasting on peanuts and soda pop.
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2013 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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