In filming the life story of Grover Cleveland Alexander, Warner Brothers made it a story of redemption when in fact it was a story of tragedy. But 1952 movie audiences wanted their happy endings.
Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887-1950) was possibly the greatest right handed pitcher in National League history. He played for 3 teams, the Phillies, Cubs, and Cardinals and compiled 373 lifetime victories over a 20 year period.
While still in the bush leagues Alexander sustained a serious head injury when a ball struck him right between the eyes while he was a base runner. He had double vision and headaches for a year. During World War I while an artillery officer the noise of exploding shells compounded a seemingly healed injury with a complication of epilepsy. To anesthetize himself, Alexander took to drinking some of that Prohibition whiskey and became an alcoholic.
After leaving baseball in 1930 for the next twenty years, Alexander drifted to all kinds of menial jobs, occasionally making headlines with some alcohol related incident. One positive headline was his election to the Hall of Fame in the second round of elections. He was on hand for the dedication of the building in Cooperstown.
In 1950 Alex was on hand as the Phillies won their second National League Pennant. Alex was the star of the first pennant winning team in 1915. A month later he was found dead in a cheap rooming house.
That unfortunately is the sad truth of the real Grover Cleveland Alexander. This is not the film you will see.
Ronald Reagan is just fine and actually comes close to the character of the real Alexander who was a genial and kind man with a terrible drinking problem. This was the final film Reagan made while at Warner Brothers.
Doris Day in her second film with Reagan plays Amy Arrants Alexander, his loyal, faithful wife. In her memoirs Doris wrote that during the shooting she and Reagan had a few dates and she remembers him best as a good man who was quite a dancer when they went out. This film also qualifies as a musical for in the beginning Doris has a Christmas number, Old St. Nicholas, and Reagan joins her for the last two bars. Ronald Reagan actually did sing in one of his films.
Today Hollywood would have no problem filming the real story which was quite a love story. Amy Alexander married Alex 3 times and divorced him twice, both those divorces an effort to give him a wake up call.
But the widow Alexander was an adviser on the film and she got the film made to show the public the husband she wanted them to remember.
And baseball fans the world over remember Grover Cleveland Alexander as a great baseball pitcher and a decent and patriotic man whose service to his country caused him a lifetime of triumph and tragedy trying to control the pain in his brain. It's a good legacy that doesn't need any embellishment from Hollywood.
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