Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Baseball Post

I try to watch Ronald Reagan movies -- don't you?  I recently had the opportunity to see The Winning Team, which is the Grover Cleveland Alexander biopic.  I'm afraid it's basically a stinker, and certainly not Reagan's best work.  Not that it's really his fault.  To begin with, the movie takes up the story with Alexander as a kid about to embark on a baseball career.  He's presumably around 20 (Alexander pitches for a semi-pro team, before he's been signed to a minor league contract).  Reagan, however, was 41 when the film was released, and not really a boyish 41, and neither the movie nor Reagan does anything at all to convince us otherwise during the first half hour, when it really makes no sense at all that Alexander is that old.  But beyond that, Reagan just doesn't do what he's asked to do in this movie, basically a tragic drunk, very well at all.  As the movie tells it, Alexander turns to the bottle to both deal with and cover for his bouts of epilepsy (unnamed in the movie; it's a mystery disease that's going to kill him).  The role calls for a sense of the tragedy of the situation, with this remarkable athlete betrayed by his body and then making poor choices in dealing with it, and Reagan just doesn't really give us much of that.  Nor does Doris Day help things very much as the devoted wife, really.

Actually, the acting wasn't the biggest problem; I found the flow of the movie seriously off in several places.  Just not very professionally done, at least in my viewing.

As far as I can tell, the main liberty they took with the truth (other than confusing the issue on epilepsy) was that they took the downward spiral of Alexander's post-major league career and life and stuffed it into a span between when he left the Cubs and move to the Cardinals.  In real life, he was just traded between them, but here Reagan is released by the Cubs, then seen hooking on to a semi-pro team, getting let go, and winding up as a sideshow attraction, before the Cardinals decide to give him one last chance.  This allows the movie to a happy ending with his famous strikeout of Tony Lazzeri in the 7th game of the 1926 World Series.

Anyway, I suppose I enjoyed watching it, but it's pretty hard to recommend as either a baseball movie or a Ronald Reagan movie.

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