Quickie Films

Just three years after “talkies” came into existence, baseball and softball were already making their silver screen debuts. Back then low budget films were called quickies – made fast and on a shoestring budget – these films were pushed to market and often short on content and high on entertainment value.

In 1930 two such baseball-themed comedies were released. The first was Hot Curves. Centered around a club out of Pittsburgh, there are dames and ball players. While the theme is a bit predictable – a player lets his ego get the better of him which costs him his gal, the manager’s daughter of course, and lands him on the bench – the conclusion is all-together delightful. What began as a hot mess of poor scripting and over-the-top acting really settled in during the last 30 minutes to prove a silly, yet entertaining, finish. It just requires you to buy into the time period and the dramatics still engaged to compensate for the lack of plot development.

Comedy, Drama, Romance

Released June 15, 1930

Company: Tiffany Productions

Runtime: 83 minutes

Color: Black & White

Also released in 1930 was a musical drama entitled, They Learned About Women that was also known under the title, The Penchant Winning Battery. The two lead characters are a pair of baseball players who earn a living in the off-season on the Vaudeville circuit. A gold digger gets in the middle of things and soon, one of the men’s lives turns into a country song with him loosing his fiancé, job and best friend. All of which, in turn, costs him the gold digger as well.

95 minutes

Released January 31, 1930

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Color: Black & White

The original film was made by MGM studios and, in 1949, they decided to remake the script under a new title with bigger names.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game was released in April 1949, with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Betty Garrett and Esther Williams. This film was also released in Technicolor with an estimated budget close to $2M.

Irish Actor Tom Dugan, whose career spanned four decades, appears in both version of the film. He’s Tim in the 1930s version and Slappy Burke in the 1949 remake.

Here’s a scene from the film that starts at the team dinner:

In May of 1935, the action comedy Swellhead was in theaters. Terry McCall is a good ballplayer who’s not afraid to let you know it. Off the field he busies himself wooing women. When an accident leaves him blind he promises to change his ways. This quickie was based on one of the earliest adult baseball fiction books, the 1921 short-story collection Hearts and the Diamond by Gerald Beaumont.

Runtime: 63 minutes

Company: Bryan Foy Productions

Color: Black & White

Next it’s a whodunit novel turned film. Death on the Diamond, published by Cortland Fitzsimmons in 1934, was the first widely distributed adult baseball mystery. During this era in film, many books in the genre were made into entertainment movies of the same titles.

The drama/mystery was released in September of the same year. The story revolves around a team owner deep in debt who hires a pitching ace to get him out of hot water. The mob likes him right where he is however and that spells trouble for the players on his team.

Robert Young and Mickey Rooney star in the movie with Walter Brennan making an appearance as a hot dog vendor. Players from the St. Louis Cardinals have cameos as well and Dennis O’Keefe gets behind the mic as the radio announcer.

Runtime: 71 minutes

Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

Color: Black & White

The final film in this era of ball movies is the 1937 softball whodunit Girls Can Play. The drama was released on June 23, 1937, and starred a 19-year old Rita Hayworth as a softballer who gets caught up in a murder. Michelle Nolan, author of the book Ball Tales: A study of Baseball, Basketball and Football Fiction of the 1930s through 1960s, speculates that this may be the first film ever written about softball. Based on the story Miss Casey At Bat, written for the studio by Albert DeMond, it is a quickie directed Lambert Hillyer of B-movie fame for his interpretation of Batman.

Runtime: 59 minutes

Company: Columbia Picture Corporation

Color: black & white

#movie #Culture #baseball #softball