Friday, November 13, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Big Leaguer (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Edward G. Robinson stars in BIG LEAGUER (1953), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

This little 71-minute movie about a New York Giants minor league baseball camp isn't much more than a "B" film, but I quite enjoyed it.  It's nothing fancy, but the capable cast and authentic baseball atmosphere made it appealing for this baseball fan.

The movie is almost a "baseball procedural" about the process of going through auditioning for a minor league contract, complete with an omniscient narrator (Paul Langton as a sportswriter) filling in the blanks as needed between scenes.

Robinson plays Hans Lobert, a former baseball player who now manages a camp for the Giants assessing potential players for its farm system.

Among the players who arrive in Florida for a tryout are quiet Adam Polachuk (Jeff Richards), who comes from a poor mining town; cocky fastball pitcher Bobby Bronson (Richard Jaeckel); smart-mouthed Julie Davis (William Campbell); Tippy Mitchell (Bill Crandall), whose dad (Frank Ferguson) was a famous player; and Chuy Aguilar (Lalo Rios), who's learning English along with navigating tryouts.

Hans' niece Christy (Vera-Ellen), who works in the Giants' front office, arrives to help at camp, and she also has a warning for her uncle, that upper management may be thinking of replacing him soon.

Adam and Christy gravitate toward one another, but he's got a problem; although he's one of the better players at camp, his father (Mario Siletti) thinks he's gone to college.  When a story by sportswriter Brian McLennan (Langton) is syndicated and hits Adam's hometown paper, it could spell trouble.

There's not much more to this film, which was directed by Robert Aldrich, but I liked it.  When the minor league candidates play a team of Dodger rookies, I was tickled that the Dodgers were managed by Al Campanis.  Carl Hubbell also puts in a brief appearance.

Robinson is as authoritative in the role as one would expect, and Vera-Ellen exudes a nice confidence in a non-dancing role as a woman who knows baseball and is comfortable in what was mostly then a "man's world."  Richards (SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS) wasn't a very deep actor, but he has the right build for the part and acquits himself just fine in the role as a somewhat insecure man who loves baseball. (Update: I'm reminded that prior to his film career, Richards was a minor league baseball player in real life. No wonder he looked the part!)

BIG LEAGUER may not be a great film, but fans of the cast, baseball, short "B" films, or all of the above will probably enjoy spending a little over an hour with it.  I did.

The screenplay was written by Herbert Baker from a story by John McNulty and Louis Morheim.  The black and white photography was by William Mellor.

The Warner Archive DVD is a nice print with good sound. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

3 Comments:

Blogger Vienna said...

Sounds an unusual role for Robinson. Baseball never made it to this side of the Atlantic but I’m sure I would like this one. Good cast .

1:48 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Not a great film, but warm and memorable. For me, the subject matter and Edward G. make it an all-time forgotten favorite. Forgotten because it was just a time-filler back in the day when I saw it -- but I have no idea what the top of the bill picture was. So, it did more than just its job.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'd be curious what you think, Vienna! Nice little movie.

Barrylane, really enjoyed your description of it. What a great comment that this was the movie you remember from a double bill. That's neat.

Best wishes,
Laura

11:10 PM  

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