Angels in the Outfield (1951)

Article 1984 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-20-2006
Posting Date: 1-17-2007
Directed by Clarence Brown
Featuring Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh, Keenan Wynn

A foul-mouthed coach of a losing baseball team is visited by an angel, who offers him a chance to win the pennant if he cleans up his act.

I’m not a baseball fan and I’m not particularly keen on angels, either. As a result, the thought of seeing a movie where angels help a baseball team to win the pennant strikes me not as enthralling, but as corny, and despite the fact that this movie has a decent reputation, I didn’t expect to care for it much. Fortunately, the first twenty-five minutes of this movie are great; the performances of Paul Douglas and Keenan Wynn as the coach and his arch-rival, a news reporter, are hilarious, and when the angel appears (unseen, but voiced by James Whitmore), he proves to be a bit of a tough talker himself. Unfortunately, the coach reforms much too soon, and with his reformation he loses his comic edge. Throw in a cute little orphan girl who can see angels into the proceedings, and the movie not only becomes as cutesy as I was afraid it was going to be, but the plotline becomes very familiar; it turns into a variation on MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET with angels instead of Santa. Still, the movie ends up improving immensely towards the end when the plot ends up turning on the fate of an over-the-hill pitcher, and it brings a hitherto secondary character to the forefront of the story. Bruce Bennett’s nearly wordless performance in this role is fantastic, and he becomes such a real character to us that the movie transcends its cliches. All in all, I enjoyed this one much more than I expected.

Oh, and horror fans may want to keep their eyes open during the wrestling broadcast for a very familiar face.



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