Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949)

Batter Up! We’re here now for the second Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly film, the 1949 musical Take Me Out To The Ball Game, which also stars Esther Williams and Betty Garrett.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Moan & Groan, Inc. (1929)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 41 seconds)

The kids ignore the warning of Officer Kennedy (Edgar Kennedy), and go dig for treasure in a haunted house. Personally, I enjoyed this one! While there are no real spooks here, it feels like a good one to watch around Halloween. The bit with the Japanese finger trap is one of the best gags in the short, particularly when Officer Kennedy and his superior both get their hands stuck in one. There might be too much focus on the adults here, but it’s not bad enough for me to trash this one. I can certainly say that I look forward to watching this one again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Cat And The Mermouse (1949)

(available as an extra on the Take Me Out To The Ball Game Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 37 seconds)

Tom the cat is all set for a relaxing day at the beach, when Jerry the mouse interrupts his rest. This was another enjoyable Tom & Jerry cartoon. It quickly becomes obvious that the short goes into a dream sequence when Tom goes underwater (and seems to be “breathing” just fine), but that’s not a problem. There’s some fun with the underwater creatures like a swordfish and an octopus that join in the chasing. Other than that, it’s still a typical Tom & Jerry cartoon, but that’s still very much a point in its favor (as is the laughter it provides)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

During the off season, baseball players Dennis Ryan (Frank Sinatra) and Eddie O’Brien (Gene Kelly) tour the country on the vaudeville stage, but it’s time to return for spring training! When they rejoin their team, however, they find that the team owner has died, and a distant relative has inherited the team. They soon find out the new owner is K. C. Higgins (Esther Williams), and she knows her stuff! Dennis immediately falls for her, but Eddie doesn’t get along with her at all. Once the season starts, Dennis finds himself being chased by Shirley Delwyn (Betty Garrett). At a big party for the team, Dennis realizes that he likes Shirley, and Eddie finds out that Katherine Higgins likes him! Of course, there are also some gamblers causing trouble by trying to fix things so that the team won’t win the pennant.

The idea for Take Me Out To The Ball Game came from Gene Kelly (although some claim it was very similar to the 1930 MGM musical They Learned About Women), and he brought in Stanley Donen to help finish the story. They were able to sell the idea to producer Arthur Freed for $25,000. At first, the film was considered as a follow-up to Anchors Aweigh, with Kathryn Grayson to be cast as the female lead. That didn’t happen, and Judy Garland was considered next. However, her health issues resulted in her being replaced by Esther Williams. Busby Berkeley was hired to direct the film, but he struggled enough that Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen ended up directing a lot of the film themselves (although they gave Berkeley the onscreen credit, his final credit as a film director). The film turned out to be a success, and Arthur Freed decided to officially give Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen the directing reins for the movie On The Town (which would again pair up Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, with Jules Munshin and Betty Garrett coming along for the ride).

Of the three Sinatra-Kelly films, I consider this one to be the most fun! I really enjoy the music, from the title tune, to “Strictly U.S.A,” to “The Hat My Dear Old Father Wore Upon St. Patrick’s Day!” Just about all of the music can easily get stuck in my head whenever I watch it! The humor generally works for me, too, especially how much they poke fun at Sinatra and how light he was, whether it be by Betty Garrett carrying him over her shoulder with ease, or all the stuff he was trying to eat to get his weight up during the spring training montage. At one hour, thirty-three minutes in length, this movie does away with the length problem of the earlier Anchors Aweigh, and everything seems to fit so much better. And the addition of Jules Munshin as Gene and Frank’s buddy manages to make things work, especially for the little comedy bit that the three of them do for goofing around for the fans a few times before some of the games.

Now, is the movie perfect? No, it does have its problems. There are aspects that feel like a re-tread of Anchors Aweigh, with Frank again playing a guy who is shy around women, and needs the help of ladies’ man Gene Kelly . Not to mention Frank falling for one gal, only to realize he likes somebody else while Gene falls for the first girl. Plus, the song “Yes, Indeedy” seems to fill the “locker room talk” song role that “I Begged Her” filled in Anchors Aweigh (although, given the choice between the two, I’ll live with “Yes, Indeedy,” as the other song is too slow and would be better removed from that movie entirely). I’d also say that the ending is a little weak. From what I’ve read in the biography Gene Kelly: A Life Of Dance And Dreams by Alvin Yudkoff, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen were never able to come up with a proper ending to their story, so we got stuck with a song-and-dance where the four leads broke character. Personally, I’ve seen worse endings, so it’s not a huge problem. And, for some, the fact that actress Esther Williams, known for her underwater ballets, barely spends any time in the water, might also be a minor problem with this movie (although, to be fair, I’m not sure how they could realistically fit an underwater ballet into the story). Still, she is enough of an athlete herself that she seems to fit the role better than either Kathryn Grayson or Judy Garland would have. Even with these issues, I do enjoy this movie very much, and would highly recommend it!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949)

On July 20, 2021, Take Me Out To The Ball Game was released on Blu-ray by Warner Archive Collection. I don’t know the exact source of the transfer, since Warner Archive is no longer doing podcasts or press releases via social media, and their newsletter didn’t mention it. My best GUESS is that they did a 4K scan of the original Technicolor negatives. Whether I’m right or not, one thing I can say: this new transfer looks GREAT!! Seriously, they’ve really brought out the color in this movie, and the detail is just exquisite! Plain and simple, they hit a home run with this one! Admittedly, whether you look at it as a bases-loaded grand slam or just a simple home run depends on your opinion of the film itself. Me, I REALLY like it, so it’s a grand slam in my book! Easily recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

My Rating (after Blu-ray): 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Anchors Aweigh (1945)Frank SinatraOn The Town (1949)

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Esther Williams – Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

The Pirate (1948)Gene KellyOn The Town (1949)

Betty Garrett – On The Town (1949)

Easter Parade (1948) – Jules Munshin – On The Town (1949)

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Edward Arnold – Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

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