Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a period piece set in 1908. The plot revolves around a fictional American League team, the Wolves, and two of its players, Eddie O’Brien (Gene Kelly) and Dennis Ryan (Frank Sinatra), who are also part-time vaudevillians.
The ball club’s status quo is turned on its head when the team winds up under new ownership, and the distress this causes the team is only increased when the new owner is revealed to be a woman, K.C. (Katherine Catherine) Higgins (Esther Williams). Eventually, Sinatra falls for her, and then Kelly as well, while Sinatra is the object of the affections of an ardent fan, Shirley Delwyn (Betty Garrett). And all of them must contend with a number of gangsters looking to win a big bet by impairing Kelly’s play and getting him kicked off the team.
I’m sure as soon as you saw the title, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, the first thing that popped in your head was that age-old song that is played in baseball stadiums throughout the country, not to mention had a hankerin’ for peanuts and Cracker Jacks, I’m sure.
What is this about?
Here’s one ball game you can’t afford to miss. Film legends Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra join forces as the most talented double-play combination to hit the major leagues since Tinker to Evers to Chance. In the off-season, when they aren’t throwing out base runners for team owner Esther Williams, the duo doubles as vaudeville’s best musical act. With Kelly tap dancing and Ol’ Blue Eyes balladeering, this grand-slam flick covers every base.
What did I like?
Priority. Many sports film, no matter what era they are made in, seem to lose sight of the sport that is the focal point of said picture. There is plenty of baseball to go around here, even when the film veers off into vaudeville, a love story, or what have you, it all comes back to the diamond. I respect a film that doesn’t deny what it is. Truth be told, this isn’t as much about baseball as something like say, Major League, but it does know that in the time this story was written, baseball was the national pastime.
Chemistry. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, two of the greatest entertainers in history, have great chemistry. The argument can be made that they should have had more time together, but this isn’t their last on-screen pairing. A few months again, along with co-stars Jules Munshin and Betty Garrett, they star in On the Town. Why do both of these films work so well? Aside from their unmeasurable talent, they truly seem like friends. Rather or not that was true off-screen, I do not know, but their relationship is magic on-screen.
The chase. Think for a minute. When was the last time you saw a film where the girl chased the guy. I don’t know about you, but I happen to like it when the tables are turned. Betty Garrett plays a woman who seen Sinatra’s character at one of the games and spends a good amount of time chasing after him, even though he is in love with the new boss, played by Esther Williams.
What didn’t I like?
Titular tune. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to hear that great titular tune more often. They didn’t even bother to play it at any of the games! All we got was Kelly and Sinatra singing it at the very beginning in the vaudeville act, and that was it. I was expecting it to play more of a prominent role in the score, at least. Some quotes here and there, maybe during scene changes, that would have been nice, but it appears the filmmakers thought otherwise.
Esther. I’ve read various sources that have said that Williams and Kelly did not get along behind the scenes. Maybe it was because of these reports, but I found that strained relationship translated on-screen. As much as they were trying to be a couple, after getting over the hatred thing, it didn’t feel like anything but forced. Now, the hate part, that felt real.
Spoiled. I believe that I’ve been spoiled but the other great dance scenes of Gene Kelly, because this tiny scene with him dancing just didn’t cut it. It was like expecting a buffet dinner and instead getting rice cakes. Sure, it was a nice little snack for what it was worth, but nowhere near as filling for what it could be.
It was just brought to my attention this morning that spring training will be starting soon, so it looks like this Take Me Out to the Ball Game was well-timed. I’m not really a baseball fan (ironically, I played in high school), but I did enjoy this film. There are better musicals from this era out there, but this is one that shouldn’t be forgotten, so give it a go, eh?
3 3/4 out of 5 stars