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There have been many pitchers in Major League Baseball who were quite adept
at doctoring a baseball. Some, such as Gaylord Perry and Burleigh Grimes,
were known to add a little saliva or in Perry's case perhaps a little
Vaseline. Doing this would cause the ball to suddenly drop when reaching
home plate as if the bottom had fallen out of it. Then there was Whitey
Ford, who was said to be able to put a few nicks or scratches in the old
cowhide causing the laced sphere to do some mighty strange things. None of
these players comes close to being as interesting as baseball legend
Professor Vernon Simpson.
Professor Simpson was a chemistry professor at a Midwestern college. He was in love with the Dean's daughter, Deborah Greenleaf and hoped that someday they would be married. College professor's salaries being what they were in the late forties, his only hope of being able to financially support Miss Greenleaf depended on an experiment he had devised that would someday change the world. Like all normal American men of his day, Vernon was also known to get caught up in the Rite of Spring better described as the opening of the baseball season. One day while in his lab working intently on his experiment, some of the young college students were outside practicing baseball. Unfortunately, an errant ball came crashing through the window destroying the Professor's experiment and mixing his chemicals into a convoluted mess. Or so he thought.
While cleaning up the destroyed experiment, Vernon accidentally discovered that the mixture of chemicals left behind had the unique ability to resist wood. After testing the formula in his lab, he recruited the young college baseball players to scientifically examine the reaction of this chemical when applied to a baseball. After acquiring enough data to prove to himself that when the formula was applied to a baseball no hitter could touch it, Professor Simpson had no alternative but to offer his services to the St. Louis Cardinals who were themselves in desperate need of pitching. Although skeptical at first, the owner of the Cardinals did give Vernon a tryout to teach him a lesson. It was of course Vernon and his secret formula that taught the manager and the owner of St. Louis the lesson, and they signed him to a contract that would pay Vernon $1,000 dollars for every game he won.
It Happens Every Spring is a whimsical tale of an innocent sports era that has long passed. It's the kind of story one might imagine as a Disney film from the sixties or seventies starring Kurt Russell as The World's Greatest Pitcher or some other lame inappropriate title. I am eternally grateful that Disney never discovered this gem in order to film a plasticized silly remake. It Happens Every Spring is good enough as it is and far better than any of those films about World's Greatest Athletes or Computers in Tennis Shoes.
A large part of its success can be attributed to Ray Milland. As Professor Simpson, he never lets the character sink into the foolishness of Fred MacMurray's Ned Brainard from The Absent Minded Professor films. That is not meant to deride MacMurray's performance in those films, as his character was played as it was written, but the fact that Milland's Simpson appears more scholarly and analytical makes this film work even better. He sees his accidental discovery as a means to achieving two necessary goals: Making enough money to be able to wed Deborah (Jean Peters)and helping the Cardinals win the pennant.
As Deborah, Jean Peters is gorgeous, charming and delightful. After Vernon's mysterious disappearance, she sets out to discover what became of him and through a series of mistaken coincidences believes he has joined the mob. Paul Douglas as Monk Lanigan, Vernon's catcher, has most of the funniest lines and some of the best scenes, one involving him wearing a splint while trying to catch, and another when he uses Vernon's formula as a hair tonic. He's a pure delight in what I consider one of his best roles.
In the cynical sports world of today, one has to wonder if a remake of this film would even work. Much of what occurs is able to happen because it came from a time when there were no multi-million dollar athletes, no wall to wall TV coverage on ESPN and no cynical sports analysts to dissect every play. One of the major plot lines in this film has to do with Vernon being able to hide his identity, and any redo of this film would just have to dispense with that possibility altogether. In the time in which this film occurs, it works marvelously, and is a joy to watch. If set in the year 2004, one doubts that it could be the same enjoyable experience. It Happens Every Spring may not be the most remembered or notable films about baseball, but it one of the best. And when you are one of the best you get my grade which for It Happens Every Spring is an A. Batter Up!!!!
Not quite in the league of "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Mr. Smith Goes
to Washington," but a great fantasy story of the egghead professor in
the hard boiled world of baseball.
Paul Douglas steals the movie as the craggy old pro catcher, Monk Lanigan. Watch for a young Alan Hale, Jr., later to be the Skipper in "Gilligan's Island." Take a look at the writing credits for the writer of this one. Sterling. Also, a great feel for 40's baseball fans, baseball stadiums, just baseball. I loved this film as a kid, still love it now.
This film should be as much a harbinger of spring as the first robin. Don't miss it!
Talk about dated! However, that's not a knock because dated many times
means fun to watch, and nostalgic for some. This is an entertaining
film and very likable.
But, if you are a baseball fan or know anything about the game, be prepared. This has the hokiest baseball scenes ever put on film. It's almost like those corny Ed Wood and others sci-fi films of the 1950s that are so bad, so corny that they are good, if you know what I mean.
The actors in here have NO CLUE how to throw a baseball or how to bat. Ray Milland is a pitcher and the star of the show and he has no idea but his catcher, played by Paul Douglas, is worse. He is embarrassingly bad. You remember the expression, "He throws like a girl!?" Well, that's Douglas. You mean with all the actors in Hollywood, they couldn't find ONE who knows how to throw a baseball?
There are so many bloopers in here - like "St. Louis" being replaced by "Chicago" on the jerseys when there are long-distance shots. You could write a novel on all the filming mistakes in here.
Yet, it's just a lighthearted comedy and, if taken in that context, easier to swallow and enjoy. The story is at its funniest when Milland pitches and the ball dispy- doodles around the baseball bats of all the hitters. (He had invented a substance that applied to something makes it avoid touching wood, so applied to a baseball, a bat could never make contact.....and, yes, as one reviewer points out, that is cheating.)
Dumb...but innocent fun and definitely has enough laughs to make it worthwhile watching.
This delightful comedy is seldom seen on cable. The Fox channel is a
great source for these neglected and forgotten films that still produce
a lot of fun to viewers, young and old. Lloyd Bacon directed this movie
with a lot of flair. There are some insanely funny moments in the film,
based on Valentine Davis' screen play.
Chemistry professor Vernon Simpson, working on a small midwest university, discovers as a fluke, that one of his projects produce a rejection of wood when rubbed in an object; that object being the baseball that almost destroys his lab. Professor Simpson's passion is the national pastime, which we see him hearing a broadcast during one of his classes. Simpson is also in love with the beautiful Debby Greenleaf, the daughter of the president of the university.
Vernon decides to try his hand as a pitcher, now that he has the secret, as he feels his beloved Saint Louis Cardinals can use him. As the mysterious King Kelly, Vernon proves to be an asset to his team. The catcher, Monk Lanigan, is his roommate. The two men develop an easy friendship. Lanigan, like anyone else, is puzzled by the way Kelly can pitch, even at his age. When Lanigan wants to know what does King keep in a tiny bottle in his dresser, and he is told it's hair tonic, which he proceeds to use himself, with magical results. He even gives some of it to the manager, not knowing is the secret formula that King uses to throw those magical pitches.
As Vernon/King, Ray Milland makes a wonderful appearance in the film. His chemistry with Paul Douglas, the catcher and roommate, is unique. Both stars are amazing together and this is what makes the comedy a winning and sunny time at the movies because of the fun we experience in watching them perform. Jean Peters is also good as Debby, the girl that conquered Vernon's heart. Ray Collins, Ed Begley and Jessie Royce Landis do excellent supporting work.
"It Happens Every Spring" is a sunny comedy that proves to be a lot of fun.
Thanks to AMC, I've finally seen "the entire game," from fans going through the turnstiles to the return of the hometown hero! This almost Disney-like sports movie says BASEBALL like few other films about The Game. Ray Milland outdoes Robert Redford's "Roy Hobbs" rookie by insulting the front office into a tryout that has the infield and outfield taking a break to watch a game of catch between pitcher and catcher as wood never connects with horsehide. (One wonders what Hollywood or even the clueless Mouse would make of an errant baseball and a mysterious white precipitate, in view of the "Flubber" mess.) And it's all done with primitive SFX, projected backgrounds, and a cast of able actors taking us on a "Walter Mitty" ride into a baseball pennant race. It's a movie that never loses sight of the value of education, even commenting on inflated player salaries versus the real world near the end of the movie. (Perspective is another thing missing from current multi-million dollar epics.) So, batter up! Strike one! Strike two! Strike three! Who's the next hitless wonder? (And who wants to sidestep Rogaine for "King Kelly's Miracle Hair Restorer"?)
A hilarious comedy as well as one of the best baseball films. Ray Milland has one of his best roles as Vernon/King Kelly, and there are great supporting turns from the likes of Paul Douglas. What I truly enjoy about "It Happens Every Spring" is that it celebrates, tongue in cheek, one of the great "unspoken" traditions of the Great American Game -- cheating! (Spitballs, corked bats, steroids -- they all fall into the same category as Kelly's wood-repellant serum.) What other baseball movie does that? Good goofy fun.
For years after watching this film, I tried to make a formula that would repel wood just like Ray Milland did as chemistry professor Vernon Simpson. After all it makes sense that a little "dab" on the pitching ball, no matter who the batter is, he could not hit the ball with the wooden bat. That is the whole film in a "nutshell." A college professor that loves baseball becomes the ace pitcher of a big league team. A truly delightful film and really incredible effects of the baseball twisting away from the baseball bat. Many funny scenes like the ones involving catcher Monk Lanigan alias Paul Douglas putting the "chemical stuff" in his hair and his hair trying to escape from the wooden comb. The ending is classic as King Kelly pitches his heart out because the "stuff" is gone and all he has is "guts." What a film!
Fun baseball comedy starring, of all people, Ray Milland. There's so
many things about this that shouldn't work yet it does. Milland plays a
college professor who also happens to be a brilliant scientist working
on a formula for a coating on wood that will make it repellent to
things like bugs and mice. Through an accident he discovers his
formula, when put on a baseball, will make it impossible to hit. So he
does what any scientist would do and decides to become a major league
pitcher. He becomes a big success, cheating like the dickens the whole
way. This was back in the day when things like fair play and honor were
valued. Yet here this guy is cheating his way to the World Series and,
amusingly, the movie passes no judgment on it. Now, anybody who knows
baseball knows some pitchers back in the day were not above using
various techniques to doctor the balls they threw. Like spitballs, for
example. Still, such things weren't openly endorsed by Major League
Baseball and they wouldn't have anything to do with the movie because
of the cheating. This is why they use fake teams in the film instead of
real ones, which was more commonplace at the time.
Milland is excellent and proves that personable, talented actors can often rise above miscasting. Paul Douglas is great fun as Milland's catcher. It's a role Douglas could play in his sleep and he's perfect in it. Gorgeous Jean Peters plays Milland's girlfriend. Besides good looks, she brings charm and humor to the part. She retired from acting in the mid 50s and married Howard Hughes. It's a very pleasant, enjoyable comedy. Far-fetched and often ridiculous, yes, but still fun.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first saw this film in 1962 on "Saturday Night At The Movies", and
it's a pleasure to see it again now 51 years later! I always remembered
it as a "fun film", and it still is.
The story is simple: A college professor (Ray Milland) accidentally invents a liquid that repels wood. He's also a lover of baseball, so decides to become a major league pitcher and use the fluid to stymie the batters on the other team and win the pennant. If he makes enough money, he can marry his sweetheart, the daughter of the college's dean. But, who is this mystery man (remember, in 1949 there were only a million television sets in the whole country). And, on the other hand, why did he disappear from the university? Had he become a gangster? I do have to say a word about the special effects here. Not bad. It's the general effects that are a little pathetic. In a number of the shots of Milland pitching, you can clearly see that he's standing in front of a screen since you see his shadow directly behind him. That's pretty sloppy for a major studio! But aside from that, this is a film to savor for its simple fun. And, there's a pretty decent cast here. Ray Milland is perfect as a professor and not bad as a pitcher...that's believable. Jean Peters is suitable as the fiancée. Paul Douglas (no favorite of mine) is wonderfully likable as the catcher who pals around with the professor; this may be his most engaging role. It's nice to see Ed Begley as the baseball club owner -- I used to like him in lots of television shows. And Ted de Corsia is great as the manager (interesting that they named him Jimmy Dolan). And to round out the cast -- Ray Collins and Jessie Royce Landis, both wonderful character actors.
Of course, one thing not brought up in the film is that Milland's character is clearly cheating. Even the baseball commissioner when the film was made called it that, and refused to allow any participation of any baseball players or stadiums in the filming of the production.
But, that aside, it's still just a good fun movie! Enjoy!
This is a great comedy. The fact that a college professor uses a chemistry formula (that makes most things repel wood) to win the World Baseball Championship actually makes it funnier. And it's wholesome fun, despite what some moralists may think. The premise that Ray Milland can't actually pitch too well is what makes this a true screwball comedy - and he is redeemed at the end (I won't say how so I won't spoil the fun of watching it). Absurd situations is what makes funny films. This definitely has the formula for comedy: Witty, lots of jokes, madcap romantic situations, and abundant twists and turns. Milland chose to star in this flick right after his Best Actor Oscar for a reason -it became a top comedy of the era. Paul Douglas is outrageously funny as his bemused catcher (the scene where he rubs Milland's wood-repelling formula into his hair is priceless). And the gorgeous Jean Peters comes across with top honors -she can actually do comedy and it's a shame Fox didn't assign her to more of these. Some other Fox actresses without a knack for comedy, were persistently featured in comedies that could have been much funnier if Miss Peters or Marilyn Monroe had been assigned the female lead. See this film. Like "Some Like it Hot" or "It Should Happen to You" (two films featuring Jack Lemmon), this one's full of fun and you'll laugh every other minute. It should have been selected as one of the 50 top comedies ever, but you know how critics love films with a message (which should never be the case with comedies).
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