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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In everyone's list of the top 10 baseball films ever made are usually
the Pride of the Yankees and the Stratton Story. No coincidence I think
that neglected director Sam Wood is responsible for both.
James Stewart's biggest commercial post World War II hit was this gem of a film. It marked a return to his pre-war studio of MGM and in marked the first of three teamings with June Allyson.
Monte Stratton was a promising young pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in the late Thirties. An off-season hunting accident cost him a leg because in his very rural part of Texas, medical help was not readily available. But that did not keep him down.
The film has a nice baseball feel to it, no doubt helped like in Pride of the Yankees by the appearance of several ballplayers. Bill Dickey of the Yankees for one and long time Chicago White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes for another. The White Sox in the thirties were pretty much a middle rank team in the American League with two franchise players, shortstop Luke Appling and pitcher Ted Lyons, both now in the Hall of Fame. Actors Dean White and Bruce Cowling play both respectively and well.
Two other fine veterans round this cast out. Agnes Moorehead in a kinder gentler version of the rural farm wife she played in Citizen Kane is Stratton's mother. And Frank Morgan does very well as down and out baseball veteran Barney Wile who scouts Stratton and sees him as a meal ticket to get back in the big leagues.
The chemistry of Stewart and Allyson was discovered here and they made this film the hit it was and deserved to be. A truly inspiring story told here.
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.
This was a nice baseball story, nothing exceptional but Jimmy Stewart's
presence in the title roll elevates the movie.
Jimmy looks a bit old to be playing a rookie pitcher, and he doesn't throw like a professional, but at least he isn't pathetic in that regard like some of the other classic-era actors who attempted to do so (you know who they are). They faked enough of the pitching scenes here to get away with Stewart's baseball shortcomings.
Anyway, it's just as much a human-interest story as it is a baseball movie, the story of "Monty Stratton" (Stewart) and his girlfriend-then-bride "Ethel," played warmly by June Allyson. She and Frank Morgan, who plays the scout to discovers Monty, are excellent as the two other main actors of the film. In a supporting role, Agnes Moorehead gives her normal competent performance as Monty's mom.
On my second viewing I was surprised to discover that the key part of the film - the part which identifies this story as different from others - doesn't occur until the last third of the film. Then, after that, we see how a difficult and traumatic physical loss affects everyone and whether Monty can return to his baseball passion.
Overall, it's an entertaining film if you are a fan of Stewart's work, or a big baseball fan and most people fall into at least one of those categories. If remade today, I would suspect the script would be a little tighter, but stories were told slower 50 years ago and one has to expect that. I'm not complaining. I've enjoyed the movie both times I've watched it, and the DVD transfer is very good.
Relax and enjoy this excellent story about a comeback against the odds.
Jimmy Stewart was made to play this small town ball-player who makes it to the big time only see his dreams. Apparently a true story and featuring several bona fide stars of baseball it is a good enough yarn, even for a Limey like me. Fans of Jimmy Stewart will just lap it up.
Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Baseball Movies; ah yes, just what
could be more American! Ever since the earliest days of the motion
pictures as both Business and Art Form, we've had them with us. Some
were not so good, whereas most were pretty good and some were truly
THE STRATTON STORY has to rank in the uppermost tier when it comes to placement. It is not only in the First Division*, but it also Wins the Pennant! This is one biopic that just had to be made! First of all, a Great Man, my own Dad, the late Clem Ryan, had a saying that, "Truth is Stranger than Fiction." He didn't claim that it was his original, just a favourite. Monty Stratton's real life story was certainly a good example to use.
The cast was excellent both in the choice of Actors to fill the roles. Mr. Stratton,was very much like his movie biographical counterpart, James Stewart. Stratton was listed at 6'6" in height, but weighing a slender 180 lbs. Stewart also used a slow, deliberate manner of speech. He is practical, even economic in not wasting any words needlessly. This may even be an indication of the personality of a man shaped by the life on a farm and dealing with the realities of the Great Depression.
June Allyson and Agnes Morehead provide their best characterizations as the women in Stratton's life; being Wife and Mother, respectively. Miss Allyson is very beautiful, sweet and fragile, and yet demonstrates a strength of character that rises to the occasion when the tragedy strikes her husband. Miss Morehead goes the 'less is better' route by underplaying her part as Stratton's Mother and brings her across firm, loving and kind.
The real life Major Leaguers in the film do adequately in the roles given them, like playing themselves-a not so easy thing to do before an audience or rolling cameras.Pitcher Gene Beardon,Catcher Mervyn Shea and Yankee Great,Catcher and Manager, Bill Dickey, all add a certain authenticity to the story. And long time player and White Sox Manager Jimmy Dykes turns in a yeoman's job in managing before the camera.
It is Frank Morgan, who portrays a former Big League Catcher, now a down and out hobo.Ity is he who discovers the young Monty Stratton and in turn, he finds his own worth as a man and useful person. Now, we just don't know if his character of Barney Wile was a real person or not. Mr. Morgan shows the deep acting talents in bringing the character to the screen. Even in the scenes when he is instructing Baseball Fundamentals, he appears to be a real, old veteran Ball Player who has been through it all.
THE STRATTON STORY is a good example of what a Hollywood can be. Its ilk is timeless and the Film Moguls would do well to give the making of this kind of Movie a try again. They might be surprised at that old Barometer of The Film Business, namely Box Office.
* First Division is a now outmoded Baseball term. In the days before League Expansion, about 1961, both the National League and the Amwercan League had 8 teams each. In reference to the standings First Division meant the teams ranked in 1st through 4th Place. 5th through 8th Place was called Second Division, with the 8th Place team was referred to as being in 'The Cellar'. The First Division Teams also received a share of World Series Money.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
James Stewart's career in motion pictures was in a terrible slump
during the late 1940s, and "The Stratton Story" was the movie that
saved him. The subject of this film is one of America's favorite
pastimes: baseball. Based on the true story of pitching legend Monty
Stratton (played by Stewart), "The Stratton Story" is truly a pleasant,
touching movie. The major climax occurs when Monty, while hunting with
his dog Hap, trips and accidentally discharges a bullet in his right
leg, forcing an amputation in order to save his life. After a period of
despondency, Monty finally has the courage to move forward. He straps
on an artificial leg and, with the sincere encouragement of his family
and friends, resumes an inspirational pitching career.
The cast of "The Stratton Story" could not have been better. The hard-working James Stewart is superb as the equally-hard-working Monty Stratton, whether it be on the farm or on the pitcher's mound. (Monty Stratton himself, serving as technical adviser on the film, met with Stewart every morning to help improve his pitching, and Stewart proved to be a great pupil.) June Allyson is wonderful as Monty's sweet-natured wife Ethel. When she first meets Monty on a blind date, she expresses absolutely no interest in baseball, so it does not appear to be a match made in heaven. But she soon realizes that Monty is a pleasant young man of strong moral character, and she decides she cannot be without him. Throughout Monty's rise to fame and his eventual hardship, Ethel proves to be a very loving, encouraging, and supportive wife. Frank Morgan is terrific as the lovable Barney Wile, a down-on-his-luck former big-league catcher who finds a hot new prospect in sandlotter Monty. Barney decides to lay off the bottle and work with Monty all winter long in smoothening out his pitching so that Monty will be ready for the big leagues. Barney eventually becomes a friend of the family and rekindles his baseball career as a pitching coach. Agnes Moorehead was the perfect choice to portray Monty's widowed mother. She, like Ethel, originally believes that Monty is completely wasting his time on the baseball field, surmising that farm life would serve him much better. But once she accepts her son's choice of career and meets Ethel, she could not be any prouder of her son, hence she does away with her close-mindedness and treats Monty, Ethel, & Barney like royalty.
My favorite moments from "The Stratton Story" include the following. Monty surprises Ethel when he starts dancing with her and doing quite well at it (the "press interviews" he kept telling her about secretly turned out to be dancing lessons). Ethel reads Monty's press notices while Monty playfully pitches balls of socks at her. Monty's mind is clearly not on the game when he learns that Ethel had a baby boy. In probably the most heartwarming moment of the film, Monty straps on his prosthetic leg and takes his toddler son out for a walk in the backyard; the sight of both father and son learning to walk together is quite a joy for Ethel and Ma. And after Monty regains his spirit and becomes used to his artificial leg, Ethel helps him get his pitching arm back into shape.
Directed by Sam Wood, "The Stratton Story" was a big hit, just what James Stewart needed to revitalize his career. It is a movie about overcoming a severe physical hardship in order to pursue a dream, and Monty Stratton did just that!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love this story, and Jimmy Stewart along with June Allyson are, in my
opinion superb. Great supporting cast! The type of movie, that I go
back to and watch again and again. Gets the point across without a lot
of foul language!
Though it isn't true to fact. I recently discovered, after having watched this movie many times, that he is a cousin to my mother in law.
Mom says Monty had to crawl home after accidentally shooting himself in the leg. Subsequently having to have it amputated above the knee.
He was a pretty nice guy, according to her and they spent time together as kids and young adults. After adulthood, they drifted apart.
If you are a baseball fan and love Jimmy Stewart as I did and want a clean movie to share with your family, then by all means...this one is a keeper.
James Stewart and June Allyson look twice as old as the roles they are
playing! Still, "The Stratton Story" is enjoyable. In the early scenes,
Mr. Stewart's frame, and natural acting style, make him somewhat
believable as a boy interested in baseball. Ms. Allyson doesn't try to
play too "girlish"; instead, she wisely acts her part as a woman
complimenting (by being in love with) Stewart's character.
Allyson, and her character, save the film the moment she appears, the focus is on the pair's relationship, and not on baseball. The Stewart/Allyson relationship is really what makes the film work, I thought -- the Stewart character could have been a golfer, doctor, whatever The scenes beginning with Stewart and Allyson in separate beds, backs turned, and unable to sleep, have an understated dignity.
Stewart and Allyson's nice performances are enhanced by: Frank Morgan, aka "The Wizard of Oz"; and Agnes Moorehead, Endora from "Bewitched". The later baseball scenes are more realistic, and fun to watch. It's strange to see the older baseball style; today, many of the players would be pumped up with steroids. I wish the sport would return to being more based on fun and skills.
Love is not something a surgeon can cut.
******* The Stratton Story (1949) Sam Wood ~ James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Morgan
Baseball means little to me, living in Scotland, so it was with some ignorance of the sport's finer points that I approached this lesser known James Stewart vehicle. Whilst ball-game live-action, with some real-life baseball personalities in the cast, does play a major part in the movie, the underlying story is simply a true tale of overcoming unexpected adversity, a prototype role Stewart delivered time and again in his distinguished career. Following on from the above, Monty Stratton as a sporting hero means nothing to me so I have no idea how far Hollywood bowdlerised the story, so I'll take the narrative at face value and give kudos where they are due to a well-paced film, with natural dialogue and well-crafted scenes, even the baseball match recreations. Stewart's "pitching action" looks natural and he acts his disability convincingly. The Stewart/Allyson pairing gets its first outing here and their natural playing and obvious simpatico from the start has you rooting for them both all the way through. The support is equally strongly played, particularly Agnes Moorehead playing her stock-in-trade "Whistler's Mother" come to life. The direction by Sam Wood is sure and I particularly appreciated the sensitivity shown in the lengthy scenes where Stewart initially broods and gives in to the loss of his leg before Allyson, in a memorable scene, encourages him to fight his disability and helps him achieve his self-respect as well as his place back at the pitching mound. In the main though, as ever, it's Stewart in all his drawling, winking, glory who garners your sympathy from the "Play ball" of a very entertaining family film. It's interesting too, to see his playing of the Stratton part as the unwitting precursor to his more celebrated part as an invalid in the later classic "Rear Window".
Supposedly Jimmy Stewart did not really want to do this film. However,
he changed his mind when it was pointed out to him by the bosses at MGM
that it would inspire veterans of World War II who had limited
mobility. One inspirational scene that occurs is the one where he and
his son walk together for the first time. It is complemented nicely by
June Allyson who is exceptional and perfectly cast as Stewart's wife
(this was the first of three films they made together).
The supporting roles are worth noting, too. Agnes Moorhead refrains from chewing the scenery, in a performance that is very understated as the mother. And this is another film where Frank Morgan plays a paternal role to one of Stewart's characters. Morgan seems very lively in this offering. The game scenes are equally lively, and the film continues to remain uplifting with each viewing.
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