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Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

The story of the friendship between a star pitcher, wise to the world, and a half-wit catcher, as they cope with the catcher's terminal illness through a baseball season.

Director:

John D. Hancock (as John Hancock)

Writers:

Mark Harris (novel), Mark Harris (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Bruce Pearson
Michael Moriarty ... Henry 'Author' Wiggen
Vincent Gardenia ... Dutch Schnell
Phil Foster ... Joe Jaros
Ann Wedgeworth ... Katie
Patrick McVey Patrick McVey ... Bruce's Father
Heather MacRae ... Holly Wiggen
Selma Diamond ... Tootsie, Hotel Switchboard Operator
Barbara Babcock ... Team Owner
Maurice Rosenfield Maurice Rosenfield ... Team Owner
Tom Ligon ... Piney Woods
Andy Jarrell Andy Jarrell ... Ugly
Marshall Efron ... Bradley
Donny Burks Donny Burks ... Perry
Tom Signorelli Tom Signorelli ... Goose Williams
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Storyline

Henry Wiggen (Author to his friends) and Bruce Pearson are members of the New York Mammoths major league baseball team - Author the star pitcher, Bruce the catcher who never quite lived up to his potential - friends, and roommates when they're on the road. During the off season, Bruce is diagnosed with a terminal case of Hodgkin's disease. Author is the only person on the team who knows of Bruce's illness, with neither planning on telling anyone. Author takes extraordinary measures to ensure that he is playing ball with Bruce during what will probably be Bruce's final season before he can no longer play. Author looks after Bruce in part because Bruce is mentally a simple man who can easily be taken advantage of, especially by his opportunistic girlfriend Katie. As the season progresses, the team isn't quite gelling, despite being the best team on paper. But as information comes to light, the dynamic on the team changes to make it a memorable end of the season especially for Bruce, who... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Sport

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

9 March 1978 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Das letzte Spiel See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Barbara Babcock, who plays the team owner in the picture, appeared in the original television adaptation in a nonspeaking role. See more »

Goofs

During Piney's song in the clubhouse, coach Joe is shown holding the deck of cards in his hand. The next cut shows him with all the cards spread out on the table. No time has passed since the song is marking the time. See more »

Quotes

Dutch Schnell: [taking Piney's revolver in the locker room] Hand it over. I'm in no mood to see anybody get killed by a buller wound. Piney, I hear you have bullets with it too.
Piney Woods: Yes, sir. They're in the gun.
Dutch Schnell: Why the hell didn't you tell me?
Piney Woods: I didn't think it'd go off. I'm always very careful.
Dutch Schnell: That's what everybody says. That's why the hospital's full of babies.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Golden Girls: Bang the Drum, Stanley (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Streets of Laredo (The Cowboy's Lament)
(uncredited)
Performed by Tom Ligon
See more »

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User Reviews

More about Humanity than Baseball
20 January 2003 | by JphilipSee all my reviews

New York Mammoth star Pitcher Henry Wiggen (played by Michael Moriarty of future "Law and Order" fame) learns from that his friend and catcher Bruce Pearson (a young Robert De Niro) is terminally ill. Because Bruce is a marginal player and, more importantly, a vulnerable, simple soul, Henry sets out to protect his compadre from the wrath of his teammates, management, and the predators of Life. Upon learning of his friend's condition, Henry negotiates as part of his contract that Bruce will remain with the team for the entire season. He also strives (and this is perhaps the biggest crux of conflict of the film) to keep Bruce's condition their secret for reasons far greater than mere confidentiality. Henry doesn't know what the fallout would be from disclosure, and one of the best scenes in the film is a grilling he gets when the manager suspects that he is hiding something. Henry is also there as Bruce deals with the unsettling prospects of terminal illness. Although the setting is baseball (and writer Mark Harris is one of the best authors of baseball fiction) the story is really about friendship and what a man will do for a friend when he knows that more is at stake than winning games. Younger viewers might not relate to a number of things that date the film somewhat, such a a player negotiating his contract without an agent and Henry's offseason moonlighting as an insurance salesman (yes, players really did do that back before free agency). Any baseball fan will appreciate the footage of Old Yankee Stadium before it was renovated in 1974-75, drastically changing the character of the legendary old park. There is an eerie real-life foreshadowing of the fate of another New York catcher, also wearing Bruce's number 15. It must be said that the supporting roles, such as the team's salty old manager Dutch (Vincent Gardenia), and Bruce's gold digging girlfriend Katie (Ann Wedgeworth), are portrayed extremely well.


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