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I rated it higher than I normally would because it is a film that
deserves to be watched.
Anyone who had the benefit of seeing insider comments from the classic film network I taped it from would know that Grover Cleveland Alexander suffered from seizures do to epilepsy.
Ronald Reagan was quite disappointed at the film company not including that in the film and not naming the disease, though implying some physical problem was involved in Alexander's problems.
The drinking was due to fear (which the film touches on) from NOT UNDERSTANDING EPILEPSY and the seizures that he had.
I think Reagan gave the character life and those who point out his deficiencies as an athlete don't mention that he was an athlete himself, playing football and eventually got a job as a sports announcer. That job helped him land his first role in Hollywood as a sports announcer on screen.
No actor is going to play baseball as well as an actual baseball player. It is a skill that many have tried and few succeed at. 'Knowing' the sport is not the same as being able to play it to the level of a big leaguer.
So, forgiving an actor for not being able to pitch like a real big leaguer is not hard when the main story here is his life, his marriage and his service to his country and to baseball between his very real struggles of epilepsy and drinking.
The film is actually quite ground breaking, covering something from an era where these things were often covered up and if they did make the news, they were public scandals. In this case, Mrs. Alexander (who was played brilliantly by Doris Day here), protected her husband's image at the time by omitting (apparently) some divorces that were designed to help him come to his senses.
Perhaps it was to help protect her as well. She probably felt she made mistakes too in trying to help him the wrong way. It's hard to know how to handle when someone's whole personality changes due to an illness.
The way the media is today, an athlete's whole career could be railroaded with no second chance by an episode of making a bad choice due to pain of getting intoxicated. This doesn't excuse Alexander's bad choices. He should have been honest with his wife and got help (also should have been honest with his baseball team(s)).
But the fact is, Babe Ruth would likely have had a tough time getting in the Hall of Fame in this age when Mark McGuire was overlooked because some people BELIEVE he used illegal steroids. It has yet to be proved and he never admitted it, only to the use of legal vitamin supplements, yet he isn't in the Hall of Fame.
Pete Rose is not forgiven to this day for the gambling which didn't occur as a player, but apparently as a manager.
Yes, baseball as in all of life should have standards. I just see that there have been many double standards as in not giving people a second chance and trying to build up heroes just to knock them down and ruin their lives.
Enough of them do it on their own (i.e. Ken Caminiti, Jose Conseco, etc.) without having to have people who aren't even in the know judging men who have the same weaknesses as us, yet have sought to inspire us to rise above those weaknesses and excel at something to give young people encouragement.
One unguarded moment or comment off the record to a reporter these days is enough to ruin a guy's life and career. Some guys are truly bad characters and deserve it.
Others, like Grover Cleveland Alexander, seem to deserve some understanding and compassion.
Would he have received it in today's journalistic environment?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Platonic ideal of a 1950s biographical movie. Hardly a word or a
scene is believable. It's so stilted and unimaginative that I rooted
for it to win.
When I was a kid the theaters were filled with nonsense like this, colorful life stories of extremely famous celebrities nobody ever heard of, and gaudy musicals with songs from the Old Stone Age, all from the teens and 1920s. It wasn't until some years had passed that I realized that, for most of the audience, these people, events, and songs were still alive in their memories, no farther behind them than the Beatles are behind us.
Grover Cleveland Alexander, a Nebraska farm boy (Reagan), is a natural pitcher who is discovered by a minor league team and plays ball for them during the summer. The problem is that his girl friend (Day) doesn't want him to be a baseball player. She wants to settle down with him on a nice farm with a picket fence and a rose garden and build a stable home. Already the movie has left originality behind on a distant horizon, hidden in a cloud of stirred-up Nebraska loess, and it's only fifteen minutes into the story.
But never mind. Day moons over the conundrum for a while longer and then decides to marry him anyway, after he's offered a contract with a major league team in Philadelphia.
Alexander is a success in 1911. He's a great pitcher. We know this because there is a montage of Ronald Reagan winding up, throwing a ball past the camera, and leaning into it with a big grin. There is also a montage of a proud and smiling Doris Day pasting newspaper clippings, bespeaking triumph, into a huge scrap book labeled in gilt "Grover Cleveland Alexander".
Little did they know that tragedy lay just around the corner. Somewhere along this time line -- I forget exactly where in Alex's dazzling rise to fame -- he gets clipped by a bean ball and is knocked out. He wakes up with diplopia -- seeing two of everything. Now, this is unwelcome news for a famous baseball pitcher, and Alex retires to the farm for a year, unreconciled to his disorder -- partly because he's convinced he can still PITCH if only it weren't for his eyes, and partly because he can't spell diplopia.
Then -- a miracle! He wakes up at night, goes to shut the window, and he sees only ONE MOON! And before you know it he's back in the game. However, tragedy lies just around the corner. No, no, the diplopia is gone for good. This is a different tragedy.
It's 1918 and World War I is upon us. Alex is drafted and is an artillery sergeant. The constant booming of the cannons makes him a little hard of hearing but, worse than that, he begins to get dizzy spells. After a triumphant return from the war, a dizzy spell causes him to pass out on the mound. The spells return. Alex sees a doctor in secret who tells him gravely that "science doesn't know much about these things." He is SO right, because doctors are not screenwriters. Writers know all the details of mysterious illnesses -- what the symptoms are, when they should appear and when they should go away. Based on Alex's description of the symptoms, my Dx is temporal lobe epilepsy. That will be ten cents.
The mysterious dizzy spells cause him to start drinking and he winds up a bum in some shabby carnival as so many heroes of these biopics must -- Joel McRae in "Buffalo Bill", Tyrone Power in "Nightmare Alley." He's rescued by an offer to return to the majors by an old friend, with the complicity of Doris Day, and a gigantic hole appears in whatever logic the plot holds. His dizzy spells disappear on the pitcher's mound, as long as he can look into the stands and catch the refulgent splendor of Doris Day's big white grin. At the very end, at the most critical moment, with the Yankees at bat and the bases loaded and the count three and two, Day is delayed in reaching Yankee Stadium, and Alex looks worried and sweaty, and the shapes begin to waver and shift, and -- and -- I had to close my eyes because I couldn't stand the tension so I can't tell you what happened.
I applaud this movie because instead of just one tragedy -- either the double vision or the dizzy spells -- you get two. This ratchets up the suspense to the Red Alert level. Also, Doris Day is mighty saucy.
Don't miss this if you want to see a typical biographical flick from the 1950s. Definitely see it if you want to know why "they don't make 'em like this anymore" and feel happy that they don't.
Nebraska farmer Ronald Reagan (as Grover Cleveland Alexander) wants to
be a baseball player so bad he drops the ball on dating pretty Doris
Day (as Aimee Arrants), for the big games. This makes father Frank
Ferguson (as Sam) reluctant to approve the wedding, but Reagan and Ms.
Day are quickly married, anyway. The big event occurs after Mr. Reagan
gets hit in the head by a ball; he recovers, but with what the doctor
calls "double vision." This on-again, off-again setback eventually
drives Reagan to drink, threatening both his career and marriage. Can
"The Winning Team" (their marriage) survive?
In "Her Own Story", Day confirmed she and "Ronnie" had a brief, real-life romantic relationship, while they were both between marriages. Interestingly, Day states the future President had a lovely apartment, was a great dancer, and spoke enough to give her the impression he was "a very aggressive liberal Democrat." Their best scenes are with (later in the picture) each other, and with (earlier in the picture) movie family members Mr. Ferguson and young Russ "Rusty" Tamblyn (later residents of "Peyton Place").
"This Is the True Story of Grover Cleveland Alexander," is the film's opening proclamation. It looks more like the studio shoved the early 1900s baseball player's life story into the typical formula film. As usual, the early scenes reveal a lead actor clearly too old for the part, as Reagan is playing a man half his age; this was something more convincingly done by Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart. Unfortunately, you spend the whole film wondering what Reagan's "double vision" problem is, exactly - and, don't expect the film to give you the answer. Day sings a very pretty Christmas song ("Ol' Saint Nicholas").
**** The Winning Team (6/20/52) Lewis Seiler ~ Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, Frank Lovejoy, Frank Ferguson
Ronald Reagan plays famous St.Louis Cardinal pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander in this average baseball flick. Reagan is not believable as a pitcher which, for a baseball fan, takes away from the enjoyment of the story. An effort seems to have been made to make it realistic showing old footage of actual games but it is not enough. Doris Day is outstanding as Mrs. Alexander, constantly encouraging her husband through bouts of alcohol and depression. Look for a few big leaguers like Bob Lemon, Peanuts Lowrey,Hank Sauer and Gene Mauch just to name a few.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Forbes Field was mentioned, they spelled Pittsburgh incorrectly.
They left out the last letter.
That being said, we have a very solid movie here with a marvelous performance by future President Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander. Unfortunately, Doris Day would need another 3 years to develop as a dramatic actress and that would come in her brilliantly breakout performance in "Love Me or Leave Me."
It's really a shame that there were some distortions in the film. I read that Amy Alexander divorced her husband twice and remarried him for a 3rd time. It's also ridiculous that the script never mentioned that Alexander suffered from epilepsy. After all, talking about his dizzy spells through us all of somewhat.
The picture itself is a heartbreak. From humble beginnings, Alexander became a star baseball pitcher only to suffer a beaning and epilepsy, the latter being confused with alcoholism; although, it was shown that he was hitting the bottle as well as a way out of his frustration.
The film succeeds because of his triumph and amazing comeback.
Reagan totally captured the essence of Grover Cleveland Alexander. Miss Day did not. Jeanne Crain would have been better suited for the part.
Alexander saves the world series for the ST LOUIS CARDINALS against the New York Yankees, yet the fans at Yankee Stadium all cheer him....and a New York cab driver and policeman help Alexander's wife (Doris Day) get to Yankee Stadium in time to give Alexander much needed moral support.
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