19 June 2007 | redryan64
True Life Biography of Courageous, Hard Luck Pitcher of The Perrenially Hard Luck Chicago White Sox
Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Baseball Movies; ah yes, just what could be more American! Ever since the earliest days of the motion pictures as both Business and Art Form, we've had them with us. Some were not so good, whereas most were pretty good and some were truly outstanding.
THE STRATTON STORY has to rank in the uppermost tier when it comes to placement. It is not only in the First Division*, but it also Wins the Pennant! This is one biopic that just had to be made! First of all, a Great Man, my own Dad, the late Clem Ryan, had a saying that, "Truth is Stranger than Fiction." He didn't claim that it was his original, just a favourite. Monty Stratton's real life story was certainly a good example to use.
The cast was excellent both in the choice of Actors to fill the roles. Mr. Stratton,was very much like his movie biographical counterpart, James Stewart. Stratton was listed at 6'6" in height, but weighing a slender 180 lbs. Stewart also used a slow, deliberate manner of speech. He is practical, even economic in not wasting any words needlessly. This may even be an indication of the personality of a man shaped by the life on a farm and dealing with the realities of the Great Depression.
June Allyson and Agnes Morehead provide their best characterizations as the women in Stratton's life; being Wife and Mother, respectively. Miss Allyson is very beautiful, sweet and fragile, and yet demonstrates a strength of character that rises to the occasion when the tragedy strikes her husband. Miss Morehead goes the 'less is better' route by underplaying her part as Stratton's Mother and brings her across firm, loving and kind.
The real life Major Leaguers in the film do adequately in the roles given them, like playing themselves-a not so easy thing to do before an audience or rolling cameras.Pitcher Gene Beardon,Catcher Mervyn Shea and Yankee Great,Catcher and Manager, Bill Dickey, all add a certain authenticity to the story. And long time player and White Sox Manager Jimmy Dykes turns in a yeoman's job in managing before the camera.
It is Frank Morgan, who portrays a former Big League Catcher, now a down and out hobo.Ity is he who discovers the young Monty Stratton and in turn, he finds his own worth as a man and useful person. Now, we just don't know if his character of Barney Wile was a real person or not. Mr. Morgan shows the deep acting talents in bringing the character to the screen. Even in the scenes when he is instructing Baseball Fundamentals, he appears to be a real, old veteran Ball Player who has been through it all.
THE STRATTON STORY is a good example of what a Hollywood can be. Its ilk is timeless and the Film Moguls would do well to give the making of this kind of Movie a try again. They might be surprised at that old Barometer of The Film Business, namely Box Office.
* First Division is a now outmoded Baseball term. In the days before League Expansion, about 1961, both the National League and the Amwercan League had 8 teams each. In reference to the standings First Division meant the teams ranked in 1st through 4th Place. 5th through 8th Place was called Second Division, with the 8th Place team was referred to as being in 'The Cellar'. The First Division Teams also received a share of World Series Money.