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The life story of Jerome Herman "Dizzy" Dean is the subject matter of this amiable baseball movie. The opening caption tells us that we are going to meet "one of the most colourful characters of our time", and certainly Dean, ace pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, is quite an entertainer.
Dan Dailey barnstorms it as the droll hayseed with bags of charm and a disarming grin. We follow him along the usual star trajectory as Dean is discovered in an Arkansas hick game, then rises inexorably through the Texas League and into the big time, winning the World Series with the Cardinals and smashing all pitching records on the way. A sports injury leads to decline, and the downward slide begins, but Dizzy is irrepressible. He overcomes life's disappointments and learns how to make his zany charm work for him in a new career.
"You're a child, Diz - a sweet, kind, generous child," says his wife Patricia, played admirably by Joanne Dru. His boyish enthusiasm captures the hearts of the Cardinals fans, who are just as likely to see Dizzy ushering them to their stand seats or working in the ticket booth as winding up his arm on the mound. He even sings with the jazz combo during the interval. However, this very childlike quality is Dean's fatal flaw - he is impulsive and undisciplined, and when his career starts to slide he lacks the maturity to deal with the diasppointment.
From the Cardinals he plummets in quick succession to the Chicago Cubs and then back into the Texas League. He takes to drinking and gambling, and neglects his adoring wife. The fight in the poker den is his lowest point. Getting knocked to the floor is the visual representation of his moral fall.
Baseball is his life, and baseball comes to his rescue. A characteristic act of kindness brings him into contact with Johnny Kendall (Richard Hylton), a rich young entrepreneur who happens to be a baseball nut and Dean's biggest fan. Kendall sees that Dean's intimate knowledge of the game and his quirky, homespun talking style will make him a natural as a radio commentator. The hunch is borne out triumphantly. The baseball-listening public loves him. Dailey is great, pouring out the malapropisms thick and fast ('confidential' for 'confident, 'respectable' for 'respective'). Pat has left her husband and made a new life for herself, but when she hears that familiar rustic drawl over the radio, she falls back in love with him.
To call "The Pride Of St Louis" a 'baseball movie' is something of a misnomer, because the film isn't really about baseball as such and doesn't attempt to get to grips with the sport. Repetitive shots of Dean's deliveries, filmed monotonously from behind the plate, form the standard fare. Wrigley Field is a mere back projection, and even the World Series is rapidly glossed over. The film's focus is Dizzy, and Dan Dailey delivers him.
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