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Thursday, September 3, 2009

THE STRATTON STORY (1949)


This well-liked baseball bio (a tru-life tale of the Chicago pitcher who lost a leg in a hunting accident, but returned to play again) is boilerplate inspirational stuff that only comes fitfully to life in the overloaded last act. No doubt, megger Sam Wood got the gig because he had made THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES back in ’42, but the film feels & looks tired & routine; even the grey scale is compressed on the print and the studio lot exteriors haven’t a breath of air to them. Perhaps Wood was too ill to follow thru and get what he wanted; he died in ‘49 and the film was his penultimate release. James Stewart & June Allyson may have picked up on the general sense of lethargy since they overcompensate, laying on their worst mannerisms with a trowel. They’d do better together for Anthony Mann in THE GLENN MILLER STORY/’54. What James should have been working on was his pitching. He’s no major leaguer! But, as the has-been professional who stumbles upon Stratton & coaches him up to the majors, Frank Morgan, like Wood making his penultimate film, but still at the top of his scene-stealing form, shows how you do it with some nice snap-of-the-wrist motion on the ball. It’s the only believable thing in the pic.

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