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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.


John D. Hancock (as John Hancock)


Mark Harris (novel), Mark Harris (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Moriarty ... Henry
Robert De Niro ... Bruce
Vincent Gardenia ... Dutch
Phil Foster ... Joe
Ann Wedgeworth ... Katie
Patrick McVey Patrick McVey ... Bruce's Father
Heather MacRae ... Holly
Selma Diamond ... Tootsie
Barbara Babcock ... Team Owner
Maurice Rosenfield Maurice Rosenfield ... Team Owner
Tom Ligon ... Piney
Andy Jarrell Andy Jarrell ... Ugly
Marshall Efron ... Bradley
Donny Burks Donny Burks ... Perry
Hector Elias ... Diego


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


Drama | Sport


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The character Henry Wiggen originally appeared as the hero in the novel, "The Southpaw", which was written by Mark Harris. Mr Harris wrote the novel upon which this film is based as well as the screenplay.Henry Wiggen, however, as played by Michael Moriarty, is not a southpaw, but a right-handed pitcher. See more »


During a game against the Orioles (right after the taunt "Get a job, Wiggin, get a job!"), an overhead shot shows no base-runners. Henry pitches, the batter hits the ball; then the next shot, from the hitter's point of view, shows a runner starting off from second base. See more »


Henry Wiggen: I don't know why you don't live it up all the time when dyin's just around the corner, but you don't. You'd think you would, but you don't. I don't know why.
See more »


Referenced in Family Guy: Brian Does Hollywood (2001) See more »


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

User Reviews

death be not proud...
17 June 2002 | by mpofarrellSee all my reviews

I originally saw this movie when it first opened in early 1973 . I haven't seen it in many years but fondly remember it as one of those pictures that leaves an indelible impression. Based on an early '50s novel by Mark Harris about a fictional N.Y.City Baseball Team (The Mammoths) the movie's focal point is the friendship between the team's star pitcher and a dying catcher, a naive, backwoods boy lacking in the social graces.

I'll never forget Michael Moriarty's Henry Wiggen in a scene where he reaches out to embrace a distraught, frightened Bruce Pearson (Robert De Niro), trying his best to console his dying roommate. " We're all dying " , Wiggen says to his friend, and thus begins and shortly ends one of the most tender scenes ever filmed between two men, in a movie about baseball, no less. And yet it's really not about baseball at all; yes, there are the obligatory scenes of the team at play and a humorous locker room speech by the team's crusty manager (the wonderful, late Vincent Gardenia, who received a supporting actor Oscar nomination for this film). There is plenty of humor to go along with the pathos in this story but pathos wins out. Death hangs over everyone's head in this picture : the message is pure and simple . To quote the movie's poster tag line, "Nothing is more important than friendship, not even death". I suppose a movie like this wouldn't work as well nowadays. The team support and management along with ridiculous sky rocketing salaries and apathetic treatment of sports fans has changed everything for the worse; this sweet little movie touches on a more innocent time. BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY will not enter the record books as one of the all time greats: it's too pat and maudlin at times (the locker room scene where Piney Woods plaintively strums the title song on the guitar is overkill, although it gets to me every time). But Moriarty and De Niro and a timeless reminder of the importance of love and friendship make this an unforgettable film.

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

9 March 1978 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Bang the Drum Slowly See more »


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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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