Take 3: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 1)

Because Heidi’s new blogathon celebrates two classic film stars, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, I decided to write a double feature in their honor. I’m starting with one of Gene Kelly’s movies first, as my movie selection had a shorter run-time. On 18 Cinema Lane’s Pinterest account, there is a recommendation board where people who visit the blog can make a suggestion for future reviews. That board hosts some Gene Kelly titles, so I had plenty of options to choose from. In the end, I picked the 1949 film, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which was recommended by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes! The idea of a musical surrounding an athletic sport was a fascinating concept. It also gave me an excuse to finally watch one of Esther Williams’ films, as I had not seen one up until this point. 2020 has become the year of Frank Sinatra films on this blog, as Take Me Out to the Ball Game is now the fifth film from Frank’s filmography I’ve reviewed. An interesting coincidence I just noticed is how most of these movies have had a musical element included.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I reviewed Anchors Aweigh back in September. In that review, I said that Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen because of how different their characters were from each other. Because of Frank and Gene’s experience working together, it allowed them to be familiar with the other performer and know what to expect from them in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Like Anchors Aweigh, their characters in the 1949 film, Dennis and Eddie, were opposites of one another. This time, however, it was for different reasons. While Eddie was interested in the night life of his world, Dennis has a quieter soul that seems to notice the finer details within his surroundings. While I wrote a list article about the travels of Esther Williams, this was my first time watching one of her films. Even though Esther spent more time on land than in the water, she appeared at ease in her role as K.C. Higgins! When people tried to stand in her way, K.C. always stood her ground. At the same time, she tried to instill fairness into the situation. One great example is when she insists on a curfew penalty for every member of the Chicago Wolves. On the surface, it seems like K.C. is being unfair toward the team. In reality, she is looking out for their best interests by making sure they get a good night’s sleep so the team can perform better on in their baseball games.

The set design: Because a significant amount of time in Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in Florida, the sets surrounding the characters are going to reflect the Sunshine State. This is done through a variety of design choices. What made me like these sets so much was how appealing they were! When Dennis and Eddie arrive in Florida for Spring Training, the audience is introduced to the stadium, located right on the beach. With fair weather in the scene and the sandy shore taking center stage, the beach looked inviting! At night, when K.C. is interacting with both Dennis and Eddie near the pool area, lights illuminated this location to show off its exterior design. The white balcony of K.C.’s hotel room complimented the dark sky shown in the background. Light colored outdoor furniture consistently carried the color scheme this set was striving for! In an outdoor sitting area occupied by K.C. and Eddie, tan wicker chairs were paired well with green plants placed in various spots. This design choice showcased a good color combination!

The majority of the musical numbers: For the most part, I liked seeing the musical numbers in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! They were well choreographed and each performer looked like they truly enjoyed what they were doing. Like I said earlier, Frank and Gene’s experience working together helped them become familiar with the acting/performance style of the other actor. This certainly worked in their favor when it came to the musical numbers! In the opening number, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, both actors wonderfully pull off a tap-dance duet! Even though tap was out of Frank’s creative comfort zone, he was able to hold his own throughout the routine. Like I also said in this review, Esther spends more time on land than water. However, she was given one scene where she swam and sang the song from the movie’s opening number. Because of Esther’s experience with musicals, she was able play her own unique role in the film’s musical department that allowed her to stand out. Esther also appeared comfortable with the performance material given.

With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Two songs that didn’t age well: In Take Me Out to the Ball Game, there are two songs that have aged poorly. The first song, “Yes, Indeedy”, is performed by Frank and Gene when their characters are telling the Chicago Wolves about the females they met during their traveling talent tour. The lyrics reveal how one woman committed suicide and another female was 11 years old. Because the song itself is faster paced and upbeat, it almost sounds like Dennis and Eddie make light of the woman’s passing. Even though they say they didn’t interact with the 11-year-old for long, it makes me wonder why this child would have anything to do with Dennis and Eddie in the first place? The second song, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, is performed by Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett. The purpose of this song is for Betty’s character, Shirley, to share her feelings for Dennis. How she does it is very forceful, with the musical number showing Shirley blocking Dennis’ path, chasing him through the stadium, and picking him up against his will. Because of her aggression in the situation and her lack of accepting rejection, it feels like a unhealthy relationship in the works.

The character of Shirley: While Betty Garrett did a good job with the acting material she was given, I was not a fan of her character. Personally, I found Shirley to be a selfish individual who didn’t seem to care about the feelings of others. As I just mentioned, Shirley is very forceful when it comes to expressing her feelings for Dennis. If her musical number, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, wasn’t bad enough, she wants to treat Dennis like she’s his mother. The way she talks to him in a scene where she blocks Dennis’ path with her horse and buggy shows Shirley talking to Dennis like she has more authority than him. More often than not, Dennis expresses how he doesn’t like Shirley in a romantic sense. He goes out of his way to avoid her and shows displeasure when she’s nearby. However, everyone surrounding him overlooks Shirley’s actions and encourages Dennis to spend more time with her.

An unclear time period: According to Wikipedia, Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in 1908. Certain aspects of the movie reflect this, with the various modes of transportation being one example. But there were some outfit choices that appeared to belong in a different decade. Whenever the Chicago Wolves are spending time in the hotel, all the team members wear team sweaters featuring their team logo. This style of sweater looked like it came from somewhere between the ‘30s and ‘50s. Like previously said, Esther has a swimming scene in this film. Her swimsuit resembles the style she wore in her “aqua musicals” of the ‘40s and ‘50s. These costume choices prevented me from getting fully immersed in the movie’s world.

Baseball game image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/baseball-game-illustration_2871359.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/man”>Man vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:  

Even though Take Me Out to the Ball Game is the second Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration I’ve seen, I’d still prefer Anchors Aweigh over the aforementioned film. While Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a fine movie, I feel the 1945 film was a stronger picture overall. However, I’m not going to dismiss the movie completely. One of the strengths of the 1949 project is the acting performances! Musical experience from Frank, Esther, and Gene definitely worked in this movie’s favor, with each actor appearing comfortable in their roles! I also enjoyed most of the musical numbers! They were certainly entertaining and fun to watch! Even though I didn’t mention it in my review, I feel the film’s conflict was underutilized. Within the last thirty minutes, Eddie tries to juggle baseball and performing in a café. Eventually, he learns that he can’t have everything he wants. Story wise, I think the film’s main conflict should have been Eddie’s struggle to fit his love of performing and baseball into his life. I actually found this part of the story more interesting than the Chicago Wolves dealing with a new team owner.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Take Me Out to the Ball Game? Which Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Oh, The Places She’ll Go: A Map of Esther Williams’ Travels

When I think of Esther Williams, the pool at Michigan’s Grand Hotel always comes to mind! As one of the hotel’s many amenities, the pool is named after one of Hollywood’s most popular stars because the movie, This Time for Keeps, was filmed at the hotel. As I thought about this beloved place in the Great Lakes State, I started to wonder if there were other places across the country or the world where Esther left her legacy. I also thought about the places where Esther visited or frequented. This became the inspiration for my entry in Michaela’s Esther Williams Blogathon! My list consists of nine locations that share a connection with the actress herself. Each listing will feature facts and insight about that specific spot. I wasn’t able to visit any of these places due to the Coronavirus. Because of this, I had to include screenshots from my phone of photos I found on the internet. Most of the information in this list is from Esther’s Wikipedia page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esther_Williams

The Esther Williams Blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood. Image found at http://loveletterstooldhollywood.blogspot.com/2020/06/esther-williams-blogathon-announcement.html.

Manhattan Beach

Location: Los Angeles County, California

Status: Active

If we’re going to talk about the places in Esther’s life, we need to start with the beginning of her story. Born in Inglewood, California, Esther visited Manhattan Beach with her sister, Maurine, according to Wikipedia. While it’s unknown which specific places Esther frequented, it’s safe to assume she would have found a way to partake in the sport that brought her joy. On the Parks and Recreation site for Manhattan Beach, I came across the page for Begg Pool. Offering classes and times for lap and recreational swimming, the Begg Pool provides swimmers with a place to learn new skills and grow as athletes. As I was explored Manhattan Beach’s Park and Recreation site, I discovered the offering of performance arts classes. I also came across the page for the annual Shakespeare by the Sea event. Having these acting opportunities available in Manhattan Beach makes a lot of sense when it comes to discussing Esther Williams. Because she became an actress after she became an established swimmer, the inclusion of acting and swimming in Manhattan Beach serves the best of both worlds.

https://www.citymb.info/departments/parks-and-recreation/aquatics

https://www.citymb.info/departments/parks-and-recreation/special-events/shakespeare-by-the-sea

https://www.citymb.info/departments/parks-and-recreation/cultural-arts/events-camps-and-classes

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.citymb.info/departments/parks-and-recreation/aquatics.

Los Angeles Athletic Club

Location: Los Angeles, California

Status: Active

On Wikipedia, there is a picture of Esther at the Los Angeles Athletic Club that was taken in 1939. The site also lists her as one of the club’s notable members. When I explored the official website of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, I got the impression the club served as a place for athletes to take their sport seriously. It would make sense for Esther to spend her time at this location, especially since she was an Olympic hopeful. Similar to Manhattan Beach’s Begg Pool, the Aquatics facility at the Los Angeles Athletic Club offers swimming classes. They also provide a conditioning club and a clinic.  Looking at the photo of the pool itself, the main takeaway is the simple style this space boasts. The black and white color palette makes the area seem like it is frozen in time, with the design choice of stripes bringing a sense of elegance. These elements create a facility that feels as timeless as the actress who went there!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_Athletic_Club (the club’s official website is included in this Wikipedia page)

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://laac.com/athletics/aquatics/.

Treasure Island

Location: San Francisco, California

Status: Active

In the year, 1940, Esther starred in a water spectacle called ‘Aquacade’. This show was held during the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. The official location of this exposition was Treasure Island, “an artificial island in the San Francisco Bay and a neighborhood in the City and County of San Francisco”, according to Wikipedia. If you’ve never visited this island or had no idea this location existed until you read this article, you might think of the famous ‘Pleasure Island’ from the beloved classic Pinocchio. However, Treasure Island is nothing like the island from Pinocchio’s story. In fact, it serves as a community that could be similar to your own backyard. The island’s official website lists many resources that will sound familiar, such as a bike shop and restaurants. What I find interesting is how an extraordinary event like the Golden Gate International Exposition was held on an island that seems ordinary. It would be fun to travel back in time to see Treasure Island transformed into an elaborate world stage!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_Island,_San_Francisco

https://sftreasureisland.org/treasure-island-businesses-attractions-and-recreation

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.kqed.org/forum/2010101854779/massive-redevelopment-underway-for-treasure-island.

The Beverly Hills Hotel

Location: Beverly Hills, California

Status: Active

Wikipedia states that one of the clauses in Esther Williams’ contract with MGM was “that she receive a guest pass to The Beverly Hills Hotel where she could swim in the pool every day”. After watching a video featuring this pool on the hotel’s website, I definitely see the appeal of this location! Similar to the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s Aquatics facility, stripes are a design staple around the pool. They can be found in the seat cushions and the table umbrellas. Pink, green, and white serve as the the pool area’s color palette. Cabanas surrounding the pool showcase this palette beautifully. With the accent wall boasting a green leaf pattern, the two surrounding walls are a solid pink. A crème sofa and chair serve as seating options in this space. Wood furniture completes the overall look, capturing a classic style that has stood the test of time!

https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/the-beverly-hills-hotel/the-pool/

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Image originally found at https://www.dorchestercollection.com/en/los-angeles/the-beverly-hills-hotel/the-pool/.

The Esther Williams Pool

Location: Mackinac Island, Michigan

Status: Active

Another hotel pool Esther frequented that joins this list! Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel was the filming location for the 1947 film, The Time for Keeps. Because of Esther’s involvement in the movie, the pool has been officially named the Esther Williams Pool!  Tanda Gmiter from MLive writes how Esther Williams and her film benefited the hotel’s longevity. The years when World War II took place were difficult for Mackinac Island’s crown jewel. The article states “during those lean war years, the Grand Hotel faced the same dismal predicament shared by many resorts: A long-term lack of paying guests”. However, a chance encounter would change the course of history for the hotel and those associated with the movie. Tanda says “someone connected to the film had seen a little 10-minute travelogue featuring the island that was done in 1944. When they were scouting sites for the Williams’ film, Mackinac seemed like a natural fit”. Since the release of The Time for Keeps, Grand Hotel has experienced years of success and has become an icon in Michigan.

https://www.mlive.com/travel/2018/07/how_a_hollywood_star_in_a_swim.html

https://www.grandhotel.com/activities/esther-williams-pool/

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.mlive.com/travel/2018/07/how_a_hollywood_star_in_a_swim.html.

Cypress Gardens

Location: Winter Haven, Florida

Status: Preserved

The 1953 movie, Easy to Love, was filmed in this particular destination, “where a swimming pool in the shape of the state of Florida had been built specifically for the film”. Wikipedia says “Cypress Gardens was a botanical garden and theme park near Winter Haven, Florida that operated from 1936 to 2009”. It was the Sunshine State’s first theme park, boasting attractions like water skiing, dinner cruises, and garden tours. This location was included in a 2014 list from the National Register of Historic Places.  Easy to Love was not the only Florida-filmed project Esther worked on, as she starred in multiple movies and television programs from the ‘50s and ‘60s. While the theme park has been closed and replaced with another one, Legoland Florida, the botanical garden is preserved inside the new park. In fact, it is included as one of their featured attractions!

https://web.archive.org/web/20070713205521/http://www.cypressgardens.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypress_Gardens

https://web.archive.org/web/20140426235832/http://www.nps.gov/nr/listings/20140425.htm

https://www.legoland.com/florida/map-explore/land-views/cypress-gardens/attractions/botanical-gardens/

While the Florida shaped pool still takes residence in Legoland Florida, it’s now used as a fountain. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Image originally found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiBkULOrf7Y.

Wembley Arena

Location: London, England

Status: Active

According to Wikipedia, Esther “starred in an aqua-special at Wembley Stadium in London”. A photo from 1956 reveals the event actually took place at Empire Pool, which is located near Wembley Stadium. The website Television Obscurities shares how this event was meant to serve as a part of an on-going tour lasting from 1956 to 1958. Poor reviews for the 1957 show caused this tour to be cut short. While I wasn’t able to find any photos of this event and a recording of the event itself hasn’t resurfaced, the Empire Pool is still part of the English community. Now known as the Wembley Arena, this venue hosts concerts covering a variety of musical genres. The arena is located in Wembley Park, a hub for attractions, entertainment, and leisure activities.

https://www.ssearena.co.uk/your-visit/wembley-park

If you want to learn more about the aqua-special, you can visit the website, tvobscurities.com, and type Esther’s name into the search bar located at the bottom of the page.

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://wembleypark.com/attractions/the-sse-arena-wembley/.

The Raleigh Hotel

Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Status: Active

2010 saw the introduction of the Raleigh Hotel’s Esther Williams suite. This room “incorporates a beach summer theme”, with a basic color palette of white and beige allowing pops of color to be seen. Bright hues of blue, peach, and teal are found in pillows, towels, and curtains. There are three separate areas within the suite: the bedroom, the bathroom, and the main sitting area. Like the pool at The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s Aquatics facility, the overall design of the suite captures a moment in time. While the style in this space is simple, it does help carry the consistency of the hotel. Its chic and vintage aesthetic make this location appear photogenic.

https://www.suiteness.com/suites/united-states/florida/miami/the-raleigh-hotel/the-esther-williams-suite

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34439-d85180-Reviews-The_Raleigh_Miami_Beach-Miami_Beach_Florida.html

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mercedes-benz-fashion-week-swim-lets-the-sun-in-98595984.html

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.suiteness.com/suites/united-states/florida/miami/the-raleigh-hotel/the-esther-williams-suite.

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Location: Los Angeles, California

Status: Active

As we come to an end in our journey through Esther’s travels, we return to the place where we began: California. When Esther attended the first annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, there was a screening of her film, Neptune’s Daughter, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s pool. This choice was fitting, since she spent a lot of time around pools during her life. The style around this area is much simpler than The Beverly Hills Hotel’s pool area. However, it works with its respective hotel’s interior designs. The white pool chairs with the hotel’s official monogram promote a more classic flare that is carried throughout the hotel. It lets the pool itself be the focal point, with the light and dark shades of blue complimenting the chairs surrounding it. This space provides a memorable view from the various suites that are offered. With the hotel itself surrounding the pool, it makes this feature as celebrated as Esther Williams herself.

https://www.thehollywoodroosevelt.com/pool/tropicana-pool-cafe

Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen. Photo originally found at https://www.thehollywoodroosevelt.com/pool/tropicana-pool-cafe.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen