A League of Their Own
Penny Marshall knows a thing or two about male-dominated fields; starting her career as one-half of the 70's television series Laverne and Shirley, she admirably transitioned to a directorial role with Big (1988), becoming the first female director to gross over $100 million. She was reunited with her star in that film, Tom Hanks, in A League of Their Own and this time he plays Jimmy Dugan, a character loosely based on past baseball great Jimmy Foxx. Like Dugan, Foxx had a shortened career due to alcoholism, forcing him into managing the women's leagues. The film's main storyline centers around two sisters, Dottie and Kit, played by Davis and Lori Petty. The characters were based on siblings Callaghan and Margaret Maxwell, who were both players in the league, although the film's rivalry was invented for the benefit of entertainment. Interestingly enough, one of Callaghan's sons, Casey Candaele, went on to play for the pros - the only child of a women's leaguer to do so. Wrigley himself is characterized in the film as Walter Harvey, a candy bar titan played by Garry Marshall, Penny's brother. The family reunion doesn't end there: Penny's daughter, Tracy Reiner, and her niece, Kathleen Marshall, were cast in supporting roles.
Geena Davis joined the cast following the departure of Debra Winger, supposedly precipitated by the signing on of Madonna. In another substitution, Petty was cast after Moira Kelly was forced to bow out after sustaining an injury during the filming of The Cutting Edge (1992). Rosie O'Donnell took a turn playing Madonna's wiseacre sidekick prior to her talk show success, and SNL alum Jon Lovitz has a memorable featured role as a scouting agent, a part that was drastically cut down from its original proportions.
Sharp-eyed viewers may notice another reunion taking place during the film: two Laverne and Shirley cohorts play bit roles in the film. David L. Lander, a.k.a. Squiggy, has an uncredited role as the Radio sportscaster, and Eddie Mekka, who played Carmine "The Big Ragu" Ragusa in the TV series, is Madonna's dance partner in the jitterbug scene. The bar in which the scene was filmed is Fitzgerald's, located in Berwyn, Illinois; it took three weeks there to film a five-minute sequence.
The role of Jimmy Dugan was originally supposed to be in his mid-fifties, but Hanks pled with Marshall to play him younger. Marshall had concerns about Dugan becoming too appealing to the audience in a younger form, so in a compromise, Hanks gained thirty pounds to amplify the image of a slovenly sot. An early version of the script featuring a romantic subplot between Jimmy and Dottie was also phased out. Bill Pullman, incidentally, played Dottie's husband, prior to his mainstream success in Independence Day (1996). Another bit role in the film is Tea Leoni; she plays a Racine infielder. The success of A League of Their Own inspired a television series of the same name in 1993; although it featured original supporting cast and episodes directed by Hanks, it only lasted one season. The A.A.G.P.B.L., however, spanned twelve seasons, lasting until 1953, and the league was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. And that's the final inning, folks!
Producer: Elliot Abbott, Robert Greenhut
Director: Penny Marshall
Screenplay: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Kim Wilson, based on the story by Kelly Candaele
Art Direction: Tim Galvin
Cinematography: Miroslav Ondricek, Michael Yada
Editing: Adam Bernardi, George Bowers
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Geena Davis (Dottie Hinson), Tom Hanks (Jimmy Dugan), Madonna (Mae Mordabito), Lori Petty (Kit Keller), Jon Lovitz (Ernie Capadino), David Strathairn (Ira Lowenstein), Garry Marshall (Walter Harvey), Rosie O'Donnell (Doris Murphy).
C-128m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Eleanor Quin