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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Another Sport Show Hits Right On The Button


The Winning Team (1952) Shows Ballplaying's Hard Knocks

Sufferin' cats! Baseball players had to go through hell to qualify for movie bio treatment, most I've seen being slow drip of hardship and misfortune visited on swell guys that never have it coming. Case in point (of many): Ronald Reagan's Grover Cleveland Alexander, who's badly ball-beaned before he even gets in the pros, then has dizzy spells while WWI trench-fighting. Turns out the latter was epilepsy, but not called that for purpose of the pic, so we never know just why "Alex The Great" weaves at times, unless it's hangover from the beaning, or drink he takes up to compensate. Reagan is earnest and does breakdown forcefully, sort of 50's revisit to "Where's the rest of me?." Tough breaks evidently came to G.C. Alexander in waves --- is he generally known among baseballers as hardest luck guy? I've been twitchy watching BB sagas since Fear Strikes Out on NBC as a boy --- Tony Perkins' crack-up there settled me never to risk ball or batting. Now after Winning Team, Stratton Story, and the rest, I'm ready to swear off these supposed luckiest men on the face of the earth (to quote saddest-of-the-lot Coop/Gehrig).


Maybe Grover's Hit Rock Bottom, But Sideshow Folk At
Least Give Him a Pro-Worthy Kiosk Sign 
Doris Day essays a helpmate any actress could manage; it's no wonder she went public with burn over work WB gave her. It takes all of props Day and Frank Lovejoy can give to keep their guy pitching. I'd assume basic incidents are true here, if not details (my ignorance again re sports). Fun to watch Warners cut every corner approached, what with Bryan Foy as Winning team's producer. Reagan/Alexander spiral down includes a carny stop reminiscent of Nightmare Alley, though unlike Ty in that harsh one, Ronnie/Grover achieves full comeback for a finish and big hugs from Doris. Not to seem sarcastic here, as The Winning Team does give pleasure in that squeeze-a-dime post-49 Warners way. For ones of us who just had that package on 60/70's TV, as opposed to glories of pre-49, things like The Winning Team had to do. Available on Warners DVD and streams in HD on Warner Instant.

2 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer has the scoop on the real-life Grover Cleveland Alexander:


"The Winning Team" gets some of the Grover Cleveland Alexander story right and a lot wrong, especially where it matters. Alexander was a great Hall of Fame pitcher, with 373 major league victories. He struggled with epilepsy and a drinking problem. The movie, however, wants to have an uplifting story of love and courage leading him out of the abyss to redemption. The true story, however, was a good deal messier and more complicated than that. Alexander had his heroics with the St. Louis Cardinals, starting and winning two games against the New York Yankees in the 1926 World Series, and then pitching the final three innings in the seventh game to thwart aYankees rally and win the series for his team. The bits about the vaudeville and side show appearances or playing for the House of David--the abyss, as the movie would have it--came after that, however, when his big career was over. Even heroes have to get up in the next morning, when the days of glory are past. He married his wife in 1918, they got divorced in 1929, they re-married in 1931, they got divorced again, this final time in 1941. He lived out the remainder of his life in reduced circumstances. By the time the movie was made, Alexander had been dead two years. Print the legend? Perhaps, especially if the rights to her part of the story had been bought from the former Mrs. Alexander.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

Upon attaining the presidency, Reagan was offered his choice of desks for the oval office. One was pointed out as having formerly belonged to President Grover Cleveland.

Reagan replied, "I played President Cleveland opposite Doris Day."

And aide to the president quietly informed him that he had not.

12:34 PM  

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