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TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME (director: Busby Berkeley; screenwriters: George Wells/Harry Tugend/story by Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen; cinematographers: Robert Skelton/ George Folsey; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Adolph Deutsch; cast: Frank Sinatra (Dennis Ryan), Esther Williams (K. C. Higgins), Gene Kelly (Eddie O’Brien), Betty Garrett (Shirley Delwyn), Edward Arnold (Joe Lorgan), Jules Munshin (Nat Goldberg), Richard Lane (Michael Gilhuly), Tom Dugan (Slappy Burke); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM/Warner Bros.; 1949)
“An enjoyable, snappy period baseball musical comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An enjoyable, snappy period baseball musical comedy, in lush Technicolor, set in 1906, that acts as a trial run for the more polished soon to be released On The Town (1949). Despite its slight story line, it was a big moneymaker upon release for MGM. It features the sparkling vaudeville-baseball routine of ‘O’Brien to Ryan to Goldberg and many lively songs, thanks to Betty Comden, Adolf Green and Roger Edens. The title number and Gene Kelly’s solo “The Hat My Father Wore on St. Patrick’s Day” and Frank Sinatra’s solo of “The Right Girl For Me” are standouts, other peppy songs include “It’s Fate, Baby, It’s Fate,” “Strictly U.S.A.” and “Yes, Indeedy.” Director Busby Berkeley (“Babes in Arms”/”The Gang’s All Here”/”Strike Up The Band”) handles the dialogue scenes with his usual panache while story writers Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen handle the dance numbers with their usual verve.

Star shortstop Eddie O’Brien (Gene Kelly) and star second baseman Dennis Ryan (Frank Sinatra) play for the world champion Wolves professional baseball team. After spending the off-season as vaudeville entertainers, they come late to spring training in Sarasota, Florida. With the death of the baseball owner, the team is stunned to find an attractive and well-dressed woman, K.C. Higgins (Esther Williams), has inherited the team. Their initial resentment changes to one of attraction, as both the bashful Denny and the more forward Eddie fall in love with the new owner. Eddie wins the owner’s heart while Denny settles for the love of the aggressive but nurturing Shirley Delwyn (Betty Garrett).

The boys perform a pre-game vaudeville comedy act in which first baseman Nat Goldberg (Jules Munshin) assists them in their copycat Al Schacht routine, but when the game begins they play hard to win. As the season progresses cunning gambler and nightclub owner Joe Lorgan (Edward Arnold), who has bet the house against the Wolves in an upcoming game against Cleveland, woos Eddie to rehearsals by the promise of a big part in an upcoming Broadway musical. When Eddie discovers he’s being used, he finds a way to redeem himself with his teammates for being absent in their crucial pennant drive and gets into the game despite Joe’s efforts to keep him from playing. Eddie, of course, delivers in the clutch.

Richard Lane and Tom Dugan play baseball manager and coach, giving their parts a definite Irish twist. Somehow all the bush-league mugging for the camera works and this film turns out to be agreeable, but far from great. Kelly has the best numbers and steals the show.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”