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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Where Flubber Had An Ancestor


It Happens Every Spring (1949) Pitches Comedy

This was one of the earlier 20th Fox titles that NBC played on their Saturday Night At The Movies inaugural season (4/7/62 and again 9/8/62). A lot of people caught Spring fever there and called it a favorite of sport comedies. The gimmick was memorable, Ray Milland inventing by chance a baseball that repels wood, this enabling him to strike out would-be batters. Late exposure may disappoint for expectation that Spring be wacky as Flubber farces that Disney made in the early 60's, cribbed shamelessly from this Fox original. Milland is absent-minded as Fred MacMurray would be, his baseball vis-à-vis Fred's basketball/football seasons. Somehow fantasy elements blended well with America's Pastime, if this, Angels In The Outfield, and later Field Of Dreams are indication. College professors in movies are always underpaid, and that gets an airing here as it would in 20th's same year Mother Is A Freshman. Were screenwriters former instructors who quit the chalkboard for movie millions?

7 Comments:

Blogger Mike Cline said...

Saw both NBC showings that premiere season. IHES was, indeed, the oldest title in that first season grouping.

Later had it on 16mm, now on DVD.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Michael J. Hayde said...

I have the 4/7/1962 TV GUIDE. No network ad, unfortunately, but I was intrigued by the listing itself, which concludes with: "After the movie, comedian Joe E. Brown presents a comic history of the Dodgers." Anyone know what that was and if it still exists?

Michael

11:36 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

So, John, how big a hit was IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING? In addition to the Disney films a decade later, there seems to have been a few immediate imitations suggesting the original must have knocked it out of the park. Paramount slammed Milland into another outlandish baseball comedy RHUBARB less than two years down the pike, with co-star Paul Douglas even doing a wink-wink cameo. And, as you noted, Douglas got his own starring ball club fantasy that year, ANGLES IN THE OUTFIELD (with a very MGM-ish cloying/creepy religious spin.) You might throw in KILL THE UMPIRE (1950) technically not a fantasy, but thanks to the crazy-ass Frank Tashlin sight gags, damn close (although I guess that one also crosses into the post-FULLER BRUSH MAN vogue for occupation-slapstick comedies.) Was the original big box office?

Like Mike C. I too saw SPRING that first NBC season. Got a kick out of Michael H's mention of the Joe E. Brown filler. Don't remember that particular one, but I do recollect the networks scrambling to stuff the tail end of those two hour movie slots when running older 90 minute features. When did they start to dig into Ken Murray's home movies?

1:27 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING did well, with $2.1 million in worldwide rentals, domestic being the gross-getter, foreign less so because of the baseball theme. SPRING would be one of Fox's few profit pictures for 1949.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Gary Rafferty said...

If using a corked bat is against the rules in pro baseball, wouldn't Milland's discovery also be a form of cheating? His character isn't an ethics professor, but still...

8:40 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I also saw that premiere showing on Saturday Night at the Movies and loved it. Don't remember the Joe E. Brown thing, but I do remember that one of the NBC movies that year was followed by John Boles talking about ... I dunno what. All I knew of Boles at the time was that he'd been in FRANKENSTEIN, so I was eagerly waiting for some inside scoop on Karloff or Whale...but nothing. I don't remember what he talked about but there was no mention of FRANKENSTEIN.

And, yes, the Professor's keep-away formula would have been cheating big time. Even if it hadn't done a thing, it still would have been "applying a foreign substance" to the ball. When I was a kid this didn't bother me at all, but when I re-watched the movie a couple of years back, it really nagged at me. It used to be cute to hear of spitballs or scuff balls or such, but in the post-steroid era, cheating in baseball is an uglier subject.

11:53 AM  
Blogger b piper said...

Many sites have commented that Milland was basically cheating. I don't think any of the films other characters ever caught on to his scheme and the broken hand gave him a convenient out (so to speak), but there would have been hell to pay. And that was BEFORE there was a gazillion dollars at stake for the Series' winners.

12:31 PM  

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