This 1949 football drama, directed by Jacques Tourneur, was somewhat ahead of its time in its realistic depiction of the politics and money behind professional football. Victor Mature stars as Pete Wilson, the star halfback for the New York Chiefs, who risks oblivion and the loss of his mercenary wife by revealing a newly found heart condition. If Wilson plays the game at his best, he could kill himself; yet if he retires, he loses his lucrative position, his fame and, as a result, his wife. Lucille Ball costars as Anne, the team secretary, who unselfishly helps Wilson resolve his problems – even those with his wife, although Anne is in love with him. In the end, Wilson must come to terms with his own self-respect and choose to play in the big game or settle for a small college coaching job.
“I never wanted to do nothin’ as bad as I want to be a lineman!” To farm boy Slim Kincaid (Henry Fonda), daring death in the electric high wires looks like mighty heroic work. So he shakes the sod off his boots and joins a crew, where a tough lineman (Pat O’Brien) befriends the newcomer – including introducing him to his best girl (Margaret Lindsay). There’s trouble ahead, on the job and in the heart, in this brawny, rough-and-tumble drama adapted from a popular book by William Wister Haines (Black Legion, Command Decision). The scenario lets Fonda do what he does best: manifest the strength and dignity of the common man. The denouement is sensational, with the two men climbing towers in a blinding blizzard to repair lines “as hot as an electric chair,” knowing the slightest misstep means disaster.
In the summer, they belt the ol’ horsehide. In the winter, they belt out songs. They’re Jerry Burke and Jack Glennon, stars on the baseball field and the vaudeville circuit. Real-life vaudevillians Gus Van and Joe Schenck, whose piano act carried them to fame in the Ziegfeld Follies footlights and on early-radio airwaves, headline this spirited 1930 musical that combines World Series heroics with the quest for romance (The Broadway Melody’s Bessie Love plays the female lead). The film’s baseball-vaudeville scenario stepped up to the plate again in 1949 with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Esther Williams in Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Batter – and curtain – up, musicals fans!