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W.S. Van Dyke
The movie is about Chicago White Sox pitcher Monty Stratton (Jimmy Stewart), who in the 1930s, compiled a 37-19 won-loss record in three seasons. After he became the winningest right-hander in the American League, his major league career ended prematurely when a hunting accident in 1938 forced doctors to amputate his right leg. With a wooden leg and his wife Ethel's (June Allyson) help, Stratton made a successful minor league comeback in 1946, continuing to pitch in minor leagues throughout the rest of the 1940s and into the 1950s. Written by
Made in 1949 - at about the time that WWII veteran amputees were emerging from their VA hospital prosthetics rehab program and thus beginning to appear among the general population - 'The Stratton Story' topic of a man working hard to overcome the wound he suffered was timely, and it helps to explain the film's resonance with the audiences of its day.
Well crafted in all respects 'The Stratton Story,' though certainly a rather fictionalized Hollywood treatment, gives a straightforward, honest look at a man, a farmer, a baseball player, a husband, a father facing his amputation squarely and making the best of himself despite his handicap - and the real Monty Stratton accomplished this feat in the days before every mosquito bite or knee-scrape prompted the callout of armies of professional counsellors. The pairing of June Allyson with James Stewart proved to yield attractive screen power as the two thespians work together very well here in their first effort as a movie couple. The supporting cast give solid performances, though I give special mention to Agnes Moorehead for her restrained, dignified portrayal of Stratton's mother which in the hands of a lesser actress could have been turned into a cliché of the farm-earth-mother.
There's fraught drama here as well as lighthearted and inspiring moments, and none are overindulged or wrung out beyond their intrinsic value. 'The Stratton Story' is a nicely balanced example of forthright cinematic storytelling of a self-reliant man supported unflinchingly by his clear-eyed, plain-spoken family and his baseball fraternity. Over time the film stands up well and it needs no third millennium explication or embellishment; it's fine fare for adults and children alike.
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