Directed by Penny Marshall
Written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
To this point in the marathon, there have been no softball movies included. In fact, off the top of my head I cannot think of a single softball movie to include even if I wanted to. Baseball has long been a male dominated sport, as have sports in general. So to come across this next film on the list, A League of Their Own, as I travel down the history of baseball in movies, it is refreshing to see such a film dedicated to the depiction of the role women have played in the game’s history. It is a departure from the rest of the films in this marathon, but in many ways it is very similar, and that is the charm of A League of Their Own, it’s women in the central roles on the field, but the story remains the same: competition, drama, and the thrill of playing the game.
A League of Their Own is based on real events, in so much as there really was an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League back in the 40s, which was developed during World War II in order to provide the entertainment of the game while most of the male, major league players were off to war. The details of the film, however, are made up. Dottie (Geena Davis) and her kid sister Kit (Lori Petty) are promising softball players in Oregon. When a scout drops by to recruit Dottie for the new Girls Baseball league, she convinces them to bring along Kit. They join other girls from around the county (Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell) on the Rockford Peaches, with famed Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) as their manager. Always outshined by her sister, Kit becomes frustrated and hopes to make a name for herself as the league championship comes on the line.
This marathon has been a great experience for a few reasons. Seeing great films about baseball I’ve never seen has been marvelous, but re-evaluating those I have has been the brightest spot. I was able to see greater depth to Field of Dreams, and I seem to have had the same experience here. A League of Their Own has always been a favorite of mine among baseball movies for its laughs and unique take on the game, but with this viewing I noticed the rivalry between Dottie and Kit a little bit more, and what it may say about feminism in our culture. The film has always been a strong representation of the independent woman in American culture, with women taking a male profession and succeeding in making a marketable product, rising above the doubters.
In my mind, I see Dottie as the traditional view of women. She is the pretty one who does all her chores and is married. She may be the star of the team, but she would drop all her success to return to her home when her husband returns from war. Kit, on the other hand, represents the progressive woman. She is pretty too, but she wants to be independent of her sister’s success, make a name for herself. She isn’t married, doesn’t want to settle down, is more focused on succeeding on her own terms, not anyone else’s. What Penny Marhshall is able to accomplish with A League of Their Own is the subversion of the traditional view of women as one side or the other, instead representing both as equally respectable and feasible options for the modern woman. Choose your own path. There is no judgment here.
But beyond that, the film is entertaining from start to finish and would be worth checking out for any fan of the game. I was endlessly impressed with the amount of baseball action that was included, and the quality of drama built throughout simply using the stakes of the game. The ensemble cast has great chemistry, led by Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, whose shtick in this movie is unforgettable (“There’s no crying in baseball!”). The relationship between Dottie and Jimmy is one of the best in the film, and great to see develop throughout. I had not remembered just how emotional the film manages to be with simple nostalgia play, especially at the end of the film. Bookended by the opening of the Hall of Fame exhibit for the league, with the much older Dottie and company, A League of Their Own earns these emotions in the end by endearing the viewer to these characters through the length of the film. What these women did is amazing, incredible, brave, and everlasting. Their time in the limelight is well deserved.