Directed by Busby Berkeley
I’m not sure how I spent my life before knowing that a Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra baseball musical existed. It almost feels like my life was not my own until now. And not only is this a baseball musical, but it’s an old timey vaudevillian baseball musical, which makes it an even better concept. Set in the early days of baseball (1900s), the Wolves are the champions of the world, and central to their success is the great double play combination up the middle, O’Brien (Kelly) to Ryan (Sinatra). But when new ownership, in the form of K.C. Higgins (Esther Williams), takes a more involved approach with the team, the two find themselves wooing over their new owner, and the pennant begins to slip away.
Both Kelly and Sinatra have wowed me on screen before, but this is the first time I have seen them together in the same film (they made 3 together), and the amount of talent between them is evident. Kelly is just such a great performer, truly living up to his character’s vaudevillian roots. Always a smile on his face, and a full 5 tool player: dancer, singer, fielder, hitter, romancer. Sinatra on the other hand, probably has the better acting chops and certainly a much better voice. They each bring something different to the table and the film takes advantage of both their strengths at different times throughout the film.
The supporting cast is good as well, headed by Esther Williams, whose K.C. Higgins is a fun, independent woman who knows her baseball. Betty Garrett and Jules Munshin deliver laughs as well in their own quirky manner. It seems interesting, as the filmmakers seem to want to make Munshin the third musketeer with Kelly and Sinatra, but his charisma never seems to match that of the two stars, leaving him as the third wheel oftentimes, getting some laughs, but also feeling a little tacked on. He garners enough laughs to be of note though, despite falling short of the charisma of his co-stars.
I will say the film lacks a truly signature moment. There are some great scenes, like “Yes, Indeedy” and the balcony/swimming pool scene. Each allows for some good laughs. There is nothing that elevates it into any kind of classic realm, instead delivering a solid, entertaining romp with two great performers, set in a great time period for baseball.