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. Also starring Esther Williams and Betty Garrett.
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.
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 Gene Kelly’s ladies’ man. 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). The ending is a little weak, as well. From what I gathered, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen wrote the story for this movie, but they were never able to come up with a proper ending, so we got stuck with a song-and-dance where the four leads broke character. Admittedly, I’ve seen worse endings. And, for some, the fact that actress Esther Williams, known for her underwater ballets, barely spends any time in the water, might also have a problem with this movie (although, to be fair, I’m not sure how they could realistically fit an underwater ballet into the story). Either way, I do enjoy this movie and would highly recommend it!
This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.
My Rating: 9/10