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Former bobby-sox idol Frank Sinatra was approaching the end of his years as an MGM contract player and musical-comedy star with Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) but was still years away from his emergence as an outstanding dramatic actor and self-styled "Chairman of the Board." This lively musical, directed with customary verve by Busby Berkeley, was one of three in which Sinatra teamed with pal Gene Kelly; the others, both of which cast them as sailors, were Anchors Aweigh (1945) and the classic On the Town (1949).
Set at the turn of the century, Take Me Out to the Ball Game co-stars Esther Williams as the unexpected new owner of the Wolves, the baseball team for which Sinatra and Kelly play. After some initial resentment the guys discover that this beautiful woman knows her baseball, with first Sinatra and then Kelly falling for her. Also entangled in the plot are Betty Garrett as the gal who pines for Sinatra, and a gaggle of gangsters who have their own interest in the team. The Roger Edens/Betty Comden/Adolph Green score has Sinatra and Kelly teaming memorably on such numbers as "Yes, Indeed" and "O'Brien To Ryan To Goldberg." Jules Munshin, their cohort in On the Town, joins the latter number as the third member of the double-play infield trio. Other tunes include "The Right Girl For Me," "It's Fate, Baby, It's Fate," "Strictly U.S.A.," and the title song.
Williams, accustomed to starring in her own swim musicals, did not adapt well to working with Kelly and Stanley Donen, who collaborated on the film's original story and choreography. In her recent autobiography, The Million Dollar Mermaid, Williams described the experience as "pure misery," claiming that Kelly and Donen were condescending and constantly made her "the butt of their jokes." She formed a lasting friendship with Sinatra, however, after encouraging him when he feared his after-hours carousing might get him fired from the film. "Take a look at the dailies," Williams says she advised Sinatra. "Your voice sounds wonderful. You're even matching Gene step-for-step in the dance numbers. So you're painting the town after work, but it's not affecting what you do on film."
Director: Busby Berkeley
Producer: Arthur Freed
Screenplay: Harry Tugend, George Wells, Gene Kelly (story), Stanley Donen (story)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Daniel B. Cathcart
Costume Design: Helen Rose, Valles
Cinematography: George Folsey
Editing: Blanche Sewell
Original Music: Roger Edens, Adolph Green
Song Lyrics: Betty Comden
Choreography: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
Principal Cast: Frank Sinatra (Dennis Ryan), Esther Williams (K.C. Higgins), Gene Kelly (Eddie O'Brien), Betty Garrett (Shirley Delwyn), Edward Arnold (Joe Lorgan), Jules Munshin (Nat Goldberg).
C-93m. Close captioning.
by Roger Fristoe