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

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

This is it, my 200th movie review! It’s hard to believe I’ve reached this accomplishment in only two years! The recent occurrence and my participation in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Joe Pasternak Blogathon caused me to choose Anchors Aweigh as the next movie to review! This film was recommended to me by The Classic Movie Muse from the blog, The Classic Movie Muse. Anchors Aweigh is also the fourth Frank Sinatra picture I’ve written about in 2020. When reading about Joe Pasternak in the announcement post for the blogathon, I learned that Joe put a lot of thought into the films he produced. Prior to joining the event, the only movie of his I’ve seen is The Unfinished Dance. Back in April, when I reviewed the project, I said it was a good, solid picture! I also mentioned how the movie did a good job at exploring thought-provoking ideas, such as the disappearance of truth. I’m looking forward to talking about Anchors Aweigh, as it is very different from The Unfinished Dance!

Anchors Aweigh poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, M-G-M Cartoons, and Loew’s Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anchors_aweigh.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Anchors Aweigh is the fourth movie of Frank Sinatra’s I’ve seen, as I said in the introduction. His performance as Clarence “Brooklyn” Doolittle was different from his roles in Marriage on the Rocks, High Society, and Ocean’s Eleven. This is because his on-screen personality was sweet-natured. It was a good contrast to Gene Kelly’s character, Joseph “Joe” Brady. In Anchors Aweigh, Gene displayed a confident and headstrong personality. This set of opposites is what helped Gene and Frank become one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen in film! Despite watching only one of Joe Pasternak’s films, I have noticed how the female characters are intelligent women who always hold their head up high. Kathryn Grayson’s character, Susan Abbott, is a great example! Even though she is a single parent, she never gives up on her dreams of being a singer. Because of a believable performance, Kathryn made Susan someone worth rooting for! While Pamela Britton appears in Anchors Aweigh for a limited time, I really liked her character! She not only had a good on-screen personality, but she also had good-screen chemistry with Frank Sinatra. Watching Pamela in Anchors Aweigh was a joy to watch, as her presence brought a bright light to any of her scenes!

The comedy: I found Anchors Aweigh to be a genuinely funny movie. That’s because the humor in this film was well-written and delivered! When Susan and Clarence are on their way to dinner, Clarence suggests that Joe join them. When Joe asks Clarence why he should go, Clarence tells him he won’t know what was said in Joe’s phone conversation. Not only was this conversation clever, but it was also executed well by Frank and Gene. Another funny scene involving Gene and Frank is when Joe is chasing Clarence around the service lodge. This moment was caused by Joe sleeping in, making him miss his meeting with Lola.

The musical numbers: In Anchors Aweigh, the musical numbers were definitely a highlight! There were so many good scenes, it is difficult to choose a favorite. Gene’s dancing talents were utilized to their fullest extent, from his duet with Jerry (the animated mouse) to his Latin inspired solo. These dance numbers were very colorful. The costumes and set design were bright and cheery, allowing the overall mood to be light-hearted and joyful. Frank’s singing abilities were also well incorporated into the story. His solos were slower, ballad pieces. This choice complimented the more romantic moments of the narrative. Having Frank and Gene perform together was a great decision! They were able to keep up with each other’s fortes as well as work well with one another. “I Begged Her” and “If You Knew Susie” showcases this creative partnership wonderfully!

The joining of animation and live-action: In one scene, Joe finds himself in a magical make-believe land where he interacts with animated animals. This is because he is telling a story to the children of Hollywood Day School how he earned his Silver Star. This part of the movie looked really good, especially for a film released in the mid-‘40s! It felt like Gene was actually in that world, as the technology of the time appeared top-notch. I also liked the quality of the animation! It contained bright colors and clear lines, reminding me of the older films from Disney.  Seeing Gene and Jerry dance together was impressive, as it seemed like they were in the same room. Before the actual dance routine, Gene led Jerry onto the ballroom floor by holding his hand. Because of how good the technology looked, this interaction between these two characters was convincing!

The Joe Pasternak Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/08/21/announcing-the-joe-pasternak-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out conflict: The main conflict of Anchors Aweigh shows Joe and Clarence trying to set up an audition for Susan. While conflicts take time to be resolved, I wasn’t expecting the conflict in this film to last the entire story. Quality script-writing made the conflict itself interesting. But I honestly feel it could have been resolved sooner.

Less Tom, More Jerry: Tom and Jerry, the famous animated cat and mouse, are listed in the opening credits of Anchors Aweigh. I was not expecting this special guest appearance, so seeing these characters in the film was a pleasant surprise. Even though I liked Jerry’s duet with Gene, Tom showed up for only a few seconds. I found their cast listing misleading, as an equal amount of screen time is expected when Tom and Jerry are included in a program.

I had this patch lying around my house and thought it would be perfect to include in this review! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

For someone who had never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s films, I have really made up for lost time in 2020. By selecting Anchors Aweigh for the Joe Pasternak Blogathon, I gave myself an opportunity to watch one of Frank’s earlier works. It also gave me an excuse to see more of Joe’s films. I can honestly say Anchors Aweigh is, so far, the best movie I’ve watched this year! There is so much to like about this project and it was pleasantly joyful! I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, as the humor was one of the strengths of this story. The entire movie was well thought out, showcasing an engaging film that was also entertaining. Thank you, Classic Movie Muse, for suggesting this film to me. If not for your recommendation, I might have never seen this delightful movie!

Overall score: 8.9 out of 10

Have you seen any of Joe Pasternak’s films? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen