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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

a perceptive and clever teleplay

Author: didi-5 from United Kingdom
25 January 2009

One of Paul Newman's early roles (as Henry Wiggen) shows what a good actor he already was in this tale of baseball and friendship. From the dark, he addresses the unseen audience and presents scenes from the story, concerning his friend Bruce (Albert Salmi), pregnant wife (Georgeann Johnson), coach and fellow players.

Henry is a decent enough type, ready to look out for the slightly dim-witted Bruce when he is afflicted by an unnamed illness. The way Newman tells and performs the story, you're drawn straight in and, despite a lack of money and scenes, this play remains extremely effective.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A simple story, simply told

Author: schappe1 from N Syracuse NY
4 September 2006

This is another review from my mini-marathon of original live TV classics and the movies they made of them. I've done "Marty", "Patterns" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight" now "Bang the Drum Slowly" and will do "The Days of Wine and Roses". I'd love to see the original "12 Angry Men" with Bob Cummings but it doesn't seem to be available. I'd love to see a cable channel devoted to these old shows, even some non-classics if they represented early work by famous actors, directors and writers, (as so many of them did). But this will do for now.

I love the simplicity of the 1956 US Steel Hour production of this play. Paul Newman, in one of his first big roles, addresses the audience on a darkened stage and explains why "he", (Henry Wiggins, a star pitcher for the New York Mammoths), wrote this story of what happened to his catcher and friend, Bruce Pierson, (Albert Salmi in what would become atypically fine performance), who succumbed to an unnamed disease that somehow didn't prevent him from playing baseball for another season. Pierson didn't want the ball club or his teammates to know about his condition because they'd probably get rid of him. Wiggin agrees to keep it a secret until the end of the season but ultimately can't. There's really only 4-5 scenes in this simple, bittersweet story and Newman introduces each, much like the stage manager he would play decades later in "Our Town". It's short and sweet, a simple story simply told.

The film, made 17 years later, "opens" the play up with large numbers of outdoor sequences, many of them filmed in an empty-looking Shea Stadium. Side characters are given much more play and there are more humorous sequences included. The big gain is a classic performance as the manager by the great character actor, Vincent Gardenia. But on the whole, the additional time given to the story and the outdoor sequences add very little to the basic story, ("The Musical Mammoths"?!?). Newman's and Salmi's basic warmth comes across better than Michael Moriarity's rather diffident and Robert DeNiro's intense method-acting performances.

As always with these old shows, it's fun to see some famous actors early in their careers. That would include the leads but also George Peppard as "Piney Woods", the southern hayseed who is a threat to replace Pierson in the teleplay along with Clu Gulager, Bert Remsen and Arch Johnson as other teammates. In the film, Heather McRae is Moriarity's wife and Ann Wedgeworth DeNiro's girlfriend while Barbara Babcock, 20 years before "Dr. Quinn", looks young and beautiful, like a fashion model as the team owner.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

First rate, all the way

Author: (srgrabman@cableone.net) from Oklahoma
25 July 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first time I watched this kinescope, I cried during the poignant ending. Not only did Paul Newman deliver a wonderful performance, but Albert Salmi, who so often in the future would be cast as a dastardly bad guy, portrayed Bruce Pierson as such a heart-tuggingly sweet character that I just couldn't believe that was the same man. That he could be so completely convincing as either extreme is a mark of a very talented actor. The supporting players were quite good, too. I'd rank this excellent telecast equal to the classic "Marty", starring Rod Steiger. There was an intensity to these live TV broadcasts that you don't see in the movies that were made later of them. Live TV, I was sorry to see you go.

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Hello Newman

Author: DKosty123 from United States
11 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a live drama from the 1950's of a theme that would become a recurring one later in the 1960's. A group of Baseball players has one player who is tragically ill & are coping with it. It was done with football (Brian's Song) and even with Baseball again later.

The reason to watch this is I think one of Paul Newman's strongest performances. Newman's character is not just the main star but he serves to as the narrator of the entire drama. What is amazing to me is watching Newman make a smooth switch from one role to the other, especially knowing this is a live production. This is not an easy thing to do. Only a few stars have that kind of charisma to make that switch and still seem believable.

Newman's performance is not the only good one, but I think this performance by him is just incredible. It's definitely an A Plus performance from Paul and this is a must see for anyone who appreciates his acting.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An excellent training ground...

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
27 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the original version of "Bang the Drum Slowly"--a teleplay which aired two decades before the famous film starring Robert De Nero and Michael Moriarty. Like so many of the excellent stories coming from the 1950s, it was written for television and is included in a wonderful set of teleplays recently released by the Criterion Collection.

This teleplay features Albert Salmi--an excellent actor whose name is mostly forgotten today. He had a great knack for playing heavies but here he plays a sad case--a 3rd string catcher who learns that he is dying. The lead actor is a very young Paul Newman playing Salmi's roommate and George Peppard appears as well--a pretty impressive young cast!

I was a taken aback by how the play started. Newman talked directly to the audience and was a combination of the play's writer and the character he played in the play. Most importantly, he acknowledges the limitations of the sets they will be using and asks the audience to use their imaginations--something you really need to do with a teleplay about baseball that was filmed in the TV studios...live! Periodically, Newman would come out during to play to explain or narrate for the audience. It's unusual and a tad awkward but worked nonetheless.

Salmi's character is a very simple-minded guy to say the least...which is some of the reason why he's a backup player and has been one for years. Perhaps because of this Newman's character tends to look after Salmi and protect him--sort of like a big brother. When Newman receives word that Salmi's character is dying, he feels a strong need to care for him during his final days. The problem is, Newman doesn't want anyone to find out about this because the team's coach is a real jerk and he's afraid they'll just drop Salmi from the team when they learn of his condition--and puts a real burden on Newman to keep this secret. Overall, the production is a bit rough. Newman and Salmi have certainly done better work, but it was a great training ground--especially since soon after this Newman began getting meatier film roles. Plus, it is an interesting story--mostly because it deals with strong emotions and doesn't shy away from death--a topic TV rarely deals with on a personal level.

By the way, interestingly, what exactly Salmi's character was dying from was never mentioned in the story!

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