The Natural


2h 17m 1984
The Natural

Brief Synopsis

An overaged baseball player comes out of nowhere to save his team.

Film Details

Also Known As
Den bäste, Natural, meilleur
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Sports
Period
Release Date
1984
Location
Pullman, Washington, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 17m

Synopsis

A once promising young baseball player returns to the mainstage fifteen years later in an attempt to restart his career after battling the demons of his past. But, it is the choices he makes with the women in his life that could lead to his downfall again.

Crew

Gary Alexander

Sound

Christine Baer

Production Assistant

Ted Bafaloukos

Creative Consultant

Robert Bean

Production Consultant

Barry Bedig

Props

Andrew Blumenthal

Editing

Mel Bourne

Production Designer

Philip M. Breen

Executive Producer

Peter Burrell

Unit Production Manager

Ralph Cavallaro

Production Assistant

Richard Cerrone

Consultant

Ellen Chenoweth

Casting

Robert F Colesberry

Unit Production Manager

Robert F Colesberry

Associate Producer

Patrick Crowley

Assistant Director

Tom Davies

Assistant Director

T Battle Davis

Editing

Craig Denault

Camera Operator

Caleb Deschanel

Dp/Cinematographer

Caleb Deschanel

Director Of Photography

Alan Disler

Assistant Camera Operator

Phil Dusenberry

Screenplay

Steve Ellsworth

Costumes

Anthony J Ferrara

Technical Advisor

Lynn Goldman

Location Manager

Angelo Graham

Production Designer

Gloria Gresham

Costume Designer

Brian Hamill

Photography

Roger Hansen

Special Effects

Clyde Hart

Key Grip

Jack Hayes

Original Music

Ken Hendler

Technical Advisor

Tom Hoerber

Makeup

Speed Hopkins

Art Director

Shelley Houis

Production Coordinator

Jere Huggins

Editing

Francine Jamison-tanchuck

Costumes

Chris Jenkins

Sound

Mark Johnson

Producer

Malcolm Kahn

Production Consultant

Francis Scott Key

Song

Gene Kirby

Consultant

Neil Kirk

Production Assistant

Gary Liddiard

Makeup

Stu Linder

Editor

Jimmy Ling

Sound Effects Editor

Kristina Loggia

Production Assistant

Bernard Malamud

Source Material (From Novel)

Chris Mclaughlin

Sound

Jules Melillo

Costume Supervisor

Sue Moore

Costumes

James J Murakami

Art Director

Randy Newman

Music

Nina Kostroff Noble

Production Assistant

Bernadette Parker

Hair

Andrew G Patterson

Sound Effects Editor

Logan Payne

Researcher

Bill Phillips

Sound Editor

Bernie Pollack

Costume Designer

Ana Maria Quintana

Script Supervisor

Liza Randol

Assistant Editor

Stratton Rawson

Location Manager

Taine Riggio

Production Assistant

Hal Sanders

Sound Effects Editor

Jay Scherick

Production Assistant

Carol Jean Smetana

Assistant Director

John Stafford Smith

Song

Kate Smith

Song Performer

Chris Soldo

Assistant Director

Gary Stanek

Location Manager

Larry Stensvold

Sound

James Stuebe

Sound

Roger Towne

Executive Producer

Roger Towne

Screenplay

Joe Tuley

Music Editor

James W. Tyson

Costumes

Stephen Vaughan

Photography

Jurgen Vollmer

Photography

Bruce Weintraub

Set Decorator

Jeffrey S Wexler

Sound

Film Details

Also Known As
Den bäste, Natural, meilleur
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Sports
Period
Release Date
1984
Location
Pullman, Washington, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 17m

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1984
Mel Bourne

Best Art Direction

1984
Angelo Graham

Best Cinematography

1984

Best Score

1984

Best Supporting Actress

1984
Glenn Close

Articles

The Natural


Although the early '80s found Robert Redford's energies shifting to directing, politics and the nurturing of the then-young Sundance Institute, he was still very much in demand as a leading man when he signed on for director Barry Levinson's The Natural (1984). The actor's first starring project in three years, this adaptation of Bernard Malamud's 1952 debut novel, regarding a once-storied baseball prospect's mid-life quest for redemption, eschewed the fatalism of the author's prose for a more fanciful and feel-good tone. Still, the film's period detail, rich supporting performances and Redford's central contribution made it a popular success and have ensured its enduring popularity.

The narrative begins with a brief montage showing the teen years tutelage of Midwest farmboy Roy Hobbs in every aspect of the diamond by his patient father. On the eve of the senior Hobbs' sudden death, a lightning bolt sunders the ancient oak on the family homestead, and Roy crafts a homemade bat from the remains that he dubs "Wonderboy." Flash forward to 1924, when the 20-year-old Hobbs (Redford) has earned a pitching tryout with the Cubs; he then has a rendezvous with his first love Iris, promising his return. As it turns out, the train to Chicago is also occupied by the majors' most feared slugger, a Babe Ruth manqué referred to only as "The Whammer" (Joe Don Baker), and his de facto publicist, the smarmy sports columnist Max Mercy (Robert Duvall). During a whistle stop, Roy rises to the all-star's taunts, striking him out on three pitches. Amongst the suitably impressed witnesses is the beautiful and somewhat spooky Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey), who slips Hobbs an invitation to her hotel room upon reaching the Windy City. The young athlete accepts to his everlasting regret, as she greets him with gunfire upon his entrance. (As a factual aside, Malamud's work was inspired by a similar 1949 incident involving Philadelphia Phillies infielder Eddie Waitkus.)

Cut to 1939, in the midst of another lost season for the hapless New York Knights, where embittered manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) is glowering over the latest roster move that Judge Banner (Robert Prosky), the team's underhanded owner, has foisted upon him. A 35-year-old fifth outfielder, with no appreciable experience, signed out of nowhere? Pop has no intention of using this reticent, long-in-the tooth rookie for anything else than riding the pines. However, with the slump of the team's best player (Michael Madsen) showing no signs of abating, he has no choice but to let Roy step up to bat. Hobbs strides to the plate, "Wonderboy" in hand, and responds by literally tearing the cover off the ball. Over the following weeks, the shrouded slugger puts the team on his back, becoming a figure of fascination for Knights fans, as well as Pop's gorgeous, man-eating niece Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), and Max Mercy, struggling to recall where he's met this mystery man before.

As the Knights make an improbable surge in the standings, the corrupt Judge is willing to bet against his own team and sabotage their run, conspiring with big-time fixer Gus Sands (Darren McGavin, unbilled) to buy Roy off through a combination of cash and Memo's seductive charms. As these machinations fall into place, the angelic Iris re-enters Roy's life, letting him know that she's been raising a teenage son alone; further, his long-ago injury becomes aggravated with potentially disastrous results. Hobbs must weigh his choices in the course of the year's pennant-clinching game, and does so in the film's now-familiar crowd-pleasing climax.

The production of The Natural would become a windfall for the city of Buffalo, New York. Levinson's production team needed a baseball stadium with the desired period look and feel, and after surveying some four dozen large minor-league parks, only Buffalo's '30s-era War Memorial Stadium met all their requisites. "I went out of my mind," production designer Mel Bourne recalled after an on-site inspection. "It was so like what I thought the stadium should be. I called Barry and told him he had to see it--there was no question about it--this was our stadium." Although the original plan was to shoot the balance of the film on a back lot, the more the filmmakers saw of the city, the more they liked. "Buffalo was a city of great wealth in the '20s and early '30s, and much of its architecture is beautiful," production executive Bernard Markey recounted. "We kept finding places that were perfect for our script."

The Natural wound up with a gross of roughly $48 million domestically, a satisfactory return on its $28 million budget. Glenn Close received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar® nomination for her efforts, and the Academy also made room on the ballot for Bourne's art direction, Caleb Deschanel's cinematography, and Randy Newman's sweeping score, which has seemingly been endlessly recycled for preview trailers in the two decades since it was composed.

Producer: Mark Johnson
Director: Barry Levinson
Screenplay: Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry; Bernard Malamud (novel)
Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel
Art Direction: Mel Bourne and Angelo Graham (Production Design)
Music: Randy Newman
Film Editing: Stu Linder, Christopher Holmes (extended version)
Cast: Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford), Iris Gaines (Glenn Close), Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley), Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey), Red Blow (Richard Farnsworth).
C-134m. Letterboxed.

by Jay S. Steinberg
The Natural

The Natural

Although the early '80s found Robert Redford's energies shifting to directing, politics and the nurturing of the then-young Sundance Institute, he was still very much in demand as a leading man when he signed on for director Barry Levinson's The Natural (1984). The actor's first starring project in three years, this adaptation of Bernard Malamud's 1952 debut novel, regarding a once-storied baseball prospect's mid-life quest for redemption, eschewed the fatalism of the author's prose for a more fanciful and feel-good tone. Still, the film's period detail, rich supporting performances and Redford's central contribution made it a popular success and have ensured its enduring popularity. The narrative begins with a brief montage showing the teen years tutelage of Midwest farmboy Roy Hobbs in every aspect of the diamond by his patient father. On the eve of the senior Hobbs' sudden death, a lightning bolt sunders the ancient oak on the family homestead, and Roy crafts a homemade bat from the remains that he dubs "Wonderboy." Flash forward to 1924, when the 20-year-old Hobbs (Redford) has earned a pitching tryout with the Cubs; he then has a rendezvous with his first love Iris, promising his return. As it turns out, the train to Chicago is also occupied by the majors' most feared slugger, a Babe Ruth manqué referred to only as "The Whammer" (Joe Don Baker), and his de facto publicist, the smarmy sports columnist Max Mercy (Robert Duvall). During a whistle stop, Roy rises to the all-star's taunts, striking him out on three pitches. Amongst the suitably impressed witnesses is the beautiful and somewhat spooky Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey), who slips Hobbs an invitation to her hotel room upon reaching the Windy City. The young athlete accepts to his everlasting regret, as she greets him with gunfire upon his entrance. (As a factual aside, Malamud's work was inspired by a similar 1949 incident involving Philadelphia Phillies infielder Eddie Waitkus.) Cut to 1939, in the midst of another lost season for the hapless New York Knights, where embittered manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) is glowering over the latest roster move that Judge Banner (Robert Prosky), the team's underhanded owner, has foisted upon him. A 35-year-old fifth outfielder, with no appreciable experience, signed out of nowhere? Pop has no intention of using this reticent, long-in-the tooth rookie for anything else than riding the pines. However, with the slump of the team's best player (Michael Madsen) showing no signs of abating, he has no choice but to let Roy step up to bat. Hobbs strides to the plate, "Wonderboy" in hand, and responds by literally tearing the cover off the ball. Over the following weeks, the shrouded slugger puts the team on his back, becoming a figure of fascination for Knights fans, as well as Pop's gorgeous, man-eating niece Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), and Max Mercy, struggling to recall where he's met this mystery man before. As the Knights make an improbable surge in the standings, the corrupt Judge is willing to bet against his own team and sabotage their run, conspiring with big-time fixer Gus Sands (Darren McGavin, unbilled) to buy Roy off through a combination of cash and Memo's seductive charms. As these machinations fall into place, the angelic Iris re-enters Roy's life, letting him know that she's been raising a teenage son alone; further, his long-ago injury becomes aggravated with potentially disastrous results. Hobbs must weigh his choices in the course of the year's pennant-clinching game, and does so in the film's now-familiar crowd-pleasing climax. The production of The Natural would become a windfall for the city of Buffalo, New York. Levinson's production team needed a baseball stadium with the desired period look and feel, and after surveying some four dozen large minor-league parks, only Buffalo's '30s-era War Memorial Stadium met all their requisites. "I went out of my mind," production designer Mel Bourne recalled after an on-site inspection. "It was so like what I thought the stadium should be. I called Barry and told him he had to see it--there was no question about it--this was our stadium." Although the original plan was to shoot the balance of the film on a back lot, the more the filmmakers saw of the city, the more they liked. "Buffalo was a city of great wealth in the '20s and early '30s, and much of its architecture is beautiful," production executive Bernard Markey recounted. "We kept finding places that were perfect for our script." The Natural wound up with a gross of roughly $48 million domestically, a satisfactory return on its $28 million budget. Glenn Close received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar® nomination for her efforts, and the Academy also made room on the ballot for Bourne's art direction, Caleb Deschanel's cinematography, and Randy Newman's sweeping score, which has seemingly been endlessly recycled for preview trailers in the two decades since it was composed. Producer: Mark Johnson Director: Barry Levinson Screenplay: Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry; Bernard Malamud (novel) Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel Art Direction: Mel Bourne and Angelo Graham (Production Design) Music: Randy Newman Film Editing: Stu Linder, Christopher Holmes (extended version) Cast: Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford), Iris Gaines (Glenn Close), Memo Paris (Kim Basinger), Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley), Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey), Red Blow (Richard Farnsworth). C-134m. Letterboxed. by Jay S. Steinberg

The Natural (Director's Cut) - Robert Redford in THE NATURAL (Director's Cut) on DVD


Barry Levinson's The Natural broke the traditional box office curse on baseball movies by taking the genre into mythic territory. Audiences couldn't always follow this piece of haunted Americana, but even kids could tell that miracles were involved -- baseball sensation Roy Hobbs accomplishes amazing feats on the ball field. After The Natural, baseball stories were accepted as the foundation for whatever metaphor a screenwriter was selling: Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham -- even the agreeable feminist docudrama A League of Their Own.

The mildly pretentious The Natural wants to be all things to all audiences. It was soundly trounced in 1984 for altering novelist Bernard Malamud's downbeat ending. Actually, the screenplay by Phil Dusenberry and Robert Towne changes the Roy Hobbs character from a shallow man with talent, to a good man with a quest, making the role more suitable as a grand vehicle for top star Robert Redford. Heavily stylized images by Caleb Deschanel combine with an epic-flavored score by Randy Newman to achieve maximum emotional impact. So why is it that so many viewers were left confused by the story? As reported in the extras in this special Director's Cut edition, the film distracted Ronald Reagan from his re-election campaign to ask, "Why exactly did that woman shoot Roy Hobbs?"

Synopsis: In the depths of the Great Depression, talented baseball pitcher Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) leaves his hometown sweetheart Iris Gaines (Glenn Close) and takes to the rails in search of his place in the big leagues. At a trackside stop he gets into a bet that he can throw three pitches past famous ballplayer The Whammer (Joe Don Baker). This brings him to the attention of the mysterious Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey), a fan of superlative athletes. By a bizarre turn of events, that meeting takes Roy out of baseball for a full fifteen years. In 1939, the 35 year-old Hobbs is far too old to debut in the big leagues, but is recommended just the same to the New York Knights manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley). Thanks to the kindness of Fisher's aide Red Blow (Richard Farnsworth), Hobbs is accepted as a Knight. Fisher is convinced that Hobbs is part of a ploy by the unscrupulous co-owner The Judge (Robert Prosky) to drive Fisher off the team, and so does not let him play. When Roy does get his chance, he's almost too good to be true -- his mighty home runs rally the Knights to victory after victory.

The Natural retains author Bernard Malamud's classical allusions to Homer and the King Arthur legend, shaping the bigger-than-life tale of Roy Hobbs into a Quest betrayed. Baseball is the American game and Hobbs the homegrown hero, complete with legendary accoutrements. His bat Wonderboy is forged from a tree struck by lightning on the night of his father's death. Hobbs, like King Arthur, has betrayed his own destiny by falling prey to female distractions -- his Penelope-like hometown girl Iris loses him to a mysterious woman in black lace.

Tales of great Americans are often about second chances. Roy Hobbs appears on the scene like a stroke of magic, a wondrously talented slugger who will lead the losing Knights to a shot at the pennant. He's opposed by an evil conspiracy rooted within the Knights organization. The patently Evil Judge (who even hates light, like a vampire) is teamed with an unscrupulous sportswriter (Robert Duvall) and a Machiavellian bookie (Darren McGavin) to make sure the Knights lose. Hobbs' Achilles heel is his soft spot for women, and he's soon diverted from his quest by the lethally seductive Memo Paris (Kim Basinger). Hobbs only regains his bearings through the intervention of the pure spirit Iris. Like a reverse Pillar of Salt, Iris appears as a white statue in the baseball stands, inspiring Hobbs, like Samson, to regain his superhuman powers. At one point Iris affirms that she still has her farm -- it's as if she derives her own super power from the good mid-western soil.

A remarkable filmic construction, The Natural demonstrates a command of cinematic graphics that betters today's comic-oriented action films. Hobbs' rural roots are shown in glowing sunset hues. A spider-like schemer lives in a darkened office den. The radiant baseball sequences link Roy Hobbs' skill with supernatural forces: Like shots from a cannon, Hobbs' impossible home runs smash stadium clocks and light fixtures. Rain falls when he knocks a baseball right out of its covering and electric bolts create showers of fire when he triumphs. We wouldn't be surprised if a holy spring were to burst forth when he strikes the ground with his bat. The miracles in the baseball diamond are accompanied by the majestic horns of Randy Newman's Aaron Copland-like score: Roy Hobbs takes his place alongside deified movie icons like Gary Cooper's Howard Roark in The Fountainhead.

Baseball fans reacted to the film's play with history, referencing the stories of greats like Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, and a little-known player named Eddie Waitkus who was gunned down by a fan in the late 1940s. The movie is also true to the idea of the national game as a metaphor for life. In the final decisive inning, Roy Hobbs is suddenly faced with a young relief pitcher, who comes out of nowhere just as had Roy so many years before. Baseball's bitter lesson is that every great player will eventually be cut down by a new generation of younger, stronger men. Roy bested The Whammer, and who is to say that this unspoiled rookie won't be the one to strike out Roy?

1984 audiences liked The Natural but its central mystery confused many. Roy gets a wonderful start at greatness, only to be sidelined for fifteen years because of a bizarre, violent event. Story details support two separate interpretations of what happened between Hobbs and Harriet Bird in that fateful hotel room. (spoiler) Early throwaway dialogue supports the idea that Bird was a serial killer of promising athletes, using a gun loaded with silver bullets. Later on, it is alluded that the crooked dealmaker Gus Sands -- who has ambushed Hobbs with his hired seductress Memo -- may have paid Harriet to shoot Hobbs because he lost money on the trackside bet. We're left unsure whether The Natural's main conflict is with business enemies over money, or simply Hobbs' internal struggle with his fatal inability to resist women.

Director Barry Levinson (Diner) assembles a sterling cast behind the 47 year-old Redford, who does a fine job playing 35. Most are cast to type, giving the picture the flavor of an old studio film. Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth are the sentimental foundation while Darren McGavin and Robert Prosky provide the front-office villainy. Glenn Close has little to do but look ethereal and wear a white dress. Robert Duvall is more of an actor than is needed but he hits all the right notes as the corrupt newsman. Barbara Hershey is properly ambiguous as the Lady in Black. She seems self-motivated rather than a gun for hire and is completely unpredictable. Kim Basinger makes a notable debut as the second fatal female in Roy Hobbs' life, all baby fat and pleading eyes. Also making an early impression is Michael Madsen as a cocksure ball player who has already sold his soul.

TriStar/Sony's Director's Cut of The Natural is a worthy two-disc set for fans of both film and baseball. In a taped introduction, Barry Levinson explains that this longer re-cut clarifies the opening half-hour while both adding and subtracting footage. The film transfer is stunning, taking its place beside The Right Stuff and The Black Stallion as a showcase for cameraman Caleb Deschanel.

Disc two contains one of the better overall DVD extras packages Savant has seen, assembled by the people at New Wave. Covered in the usual multiple short subjects instead of one coordinated documentary, excellent interviews have been assembled from most of the key personnel -- Robert Redford, Glenn Close, director Levinson, writers Towne and Dusenberry, Caleb Deschanel and even Bernard Malamud's daughter. Clever graphics and handsome original-shoot recreations contribute to the flow; we are always shown relevant images, not visual "filler."

The entire genesis of the show is covered, from Malamud's childhood to the reactions of big-league ball players. Robert Redford goes right to the crux of the matter when he laughingly admits that the film courted disaster by changing the book's gloom & doom ending. Ms. Close talks about minor disasters during filming and Deschanel remembers chasing bits of ebbing sunlight around a field to get the film's final shots. Although no deleted scenes are offered, a short group of sidebar attractions are amusing and informative. Other featurettes look at the Eddie Waitkus story and the wealth of classical allusions in Malamud's text; classically speaking, Roy Hobbs' fatal flaw is Hubris. The only imperfect extra on the disc is Charles Kiselyak's The Heart of The Natural, an overlong and sentimental analysis of the film's baseball significance hosted by Cal Ripken, Jr.

For more information about The Natural, visit Sony Pictures. To order The Natural, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

The Natural (Director's Cut) - Robert Redford in THE NATURAL (Director's Cut) on DVD

Barry Levinson's The Natural broke the traditional box office curse on baseball movies by taking the genre into mythic territory. Audiences couldn't always follow this piece of haunted Americana, but even kids could tell that miracles were involved -- baseball sensation Roy Hobbs accomplishes amazing feats on the ball field. After The Natural, baseball stories were accepted as the foundation for whatever metaphor a screenwriter was selling: Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham -- even the agreeable feminist docudrama A League of Their Own. The mildly pretentious The Natural wants to be all things to all audiences. It was soundly trounced in 1984 for altering novelist Bernard Malamud's downbeat ending. Actually, the screenplay by Phil Dusenberry and Robert Towne changes the Roy Hobbs character from a shallow man with talent, to a good man with a quest, making the role more suitable as a grand vehicle for top star Robert Redford. Heavily stylized images by Caleb Deschanel combine with an epic-flavored score by Randy Newman to achieve maximum emotional impact. So why is it that so many viewers were left confused by the story? As reported in the extras in this special Director's Cut edition, the film distracted Ronald Reagan from his re-election campaign to ask, "Why exactly did that woman shoot Roy Hobbs?" Synopsis: In the depths of the Great Depression, talented baseball pitcher Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) leaves his hometown sweetheart Iris Gaines (Glenn Close) and takes to the rails in search of his place in the big leagues. At a trackside stop he gets into a bet that he can throw three pitches past famous ballplayer The Whammer (Joe Don Baker). This brings him to the attention of the mysterious Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey), a fan of superlative athletes. By a bizarre turn of events, that meeting takes Roy out of baseball for a full fifteen years. In 1939, the 35 year-old Hobbs is far too old to debut in the big leagues, but is recommended just the same to the New York Knights manager Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley). Thanks to the kindness of Fisher's aide Red Blow (Richard Farnsworth), Hobbs is accepted as a Knight. Fisher is convinced that Hobbs is part of a ploy by the unscrupulous co-owner The Judge (Robert Prosky) to drive Fisher off the team, and so does not let him play. When Roy does get his chance, he's almost too good to be true -- his mighty home runs rally the Knights to victory after victory. The Natural retains author Bernard Malamud's classical allusions to Homer and the King Arthur legend, shaping the bigger-than-life tale of Roy Hobbs into a Quest betrayed. Baseball is the American game and Hobbs the homegrown hero, complete with legendary accoutrements. His bat Wonderboy is forged from a tree struck by lightning on the night of his father's death. Hobbs, like King Arthur, has betrayed his own destiny by falling prey to female distractions -- his Penelope-like hometown girl Iris loses him to a mysterious woman in black lace. Tales of great Americans are often about second chances. Roy Hobbs appears on the scene like a stroke of magic, a wondrously talented slugger who will lead the losing Knights to a shot at the pennant. He's opposed by an evil conspiracy rooted within the Knights organization. The patently Evil Judge (who even hates light, like a vampire) is teamed with an unscrupulous sportswriter (Robert Duvall) and a Machiavellian bookie (Darren McGavin) to make sure the Knights lose. Hobbs' Achilles heel is his soft spot for women, and he's soon diverted from his quest by the lethally seductive Memo Paris (Kim Basinger). Hobbs only regains his bearings through the intervention of the pure spirit Iris. Like a reverse Pillar of Salt, Iris appears as a white statue in the baseball stands, inspiring Hobbs, like Samson, to regain his superhuman powers. At one point Iris affirms that she still has her farm -- it's as if she derives her own super power from the good mid-western soil. A remarkable filmic construction, The Natural demonstrates a command of cinematic graphics that betters today's comic-oriented action films. Hobbs' rural roots are shown in glowing sunset hues. A spider-like schemer lives in a darkened office den. The radiant baseball sequences link Roy Hobbs' skill with supernatural forces: Like shots from a cannon, Hobbs' impossible home runs smash stadium clocks and light fixtures. Rain falls when he knocks a baseball right out of its covering and electric bolts create showers of fire when he triumphs. We wouldn't be surprised if a holy spring were to burst forth when he strikes the ground with his bat. The miracles in the baseball diamond are accompanied by the majestic horns of Randy Newman's Aaron Copland-like score: Roy Hobbs takes his place alongside deified movie icons like Gary Cooper's Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. Baseball fans reacted to the film's play with history, referencing the stories of greats like Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, and a little-known player named Eddie Waitkus who was gunned down by a fan in the late 1940s. The movie is also true to the idea of the national game as a metaphor for life. In the final decisive inning, Roy Hobbs is suddenly faced with a young relief pitcher, who comes out of nowhere just as had Roy so many years before. Baseball's bitter lesson is that every great player will eventually be cut down by a new generation of younger, stronger men. Roy bested The Whammer, and who is to say that this unspoiled rookie won't be the one to strike out Roy? 1984 audiences liked The Natural but its central mystery confused many. Roy gets a wonderful start at greatness, only to be sidelined for fifteen years because of a bizarre, violent event. Story details support two separate interpretations of what happened between Hobbs and Harriet Bird in that fateful hotel room. (spoiler) Early throwaway dialogue supports the idea that Bird was a serial killer of promising athletes, using a gun loaded with silver bullets. Later on, it is alluded that the crooked dealmaker Gus Sands -- who has ambushed Hobbs with his hired seductress Memo -- may have paid Harriet to shoot Hobbs because he lost money on the trackside bet. We're left unsure whether The Natural's main conflict is with business enemies over money, or simply Hobbs' internal struggle with his fatal inability to resist women. Director Barry Levinson (Diner) assembles a sterling cast behind the 47 year-old Redford, who does a fine job playing 35. Most are cast to type, giving the picture the flavor of an old studio film. Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth are the sentimental foundation while Darren McGavin and Robert Prosky provide the front-office villainy. Glenn Close has little to do but look ethereal and wear a white dress. Robert Duvall is more of an actor than is needed but he hits all the right notes as the corrupt newsman. Barbara Hershey is properly ambiguous as the Lady in Black. She seems self-motivated rather than a gun for hire and is completely unpredictable. Kim Basinger makes a notable debut as the second fatal female in Roy Hobbs' life, all baby fat and pleading eyes. Also making an early impression is Michael Madsen as a cocksure ball player who has already sold his soul. TriStar/Sony's Director's Cut of The Natural is a worthy two-disc set for fans of both film and baseball. In a taped introduction, Barry Levinson explains that this longer re-cut clarifies the opening half-hour while both adding and subtracting footage. The film transfer is stunning, taking its place beside The Right Stuff and The Black Stallion as a showcase for cameraman Caleb Deschanel. Disc two contains one of the better overall DVD extras packages Savant has seen, assembled by the people at New Wave. Covered in the usual multiple short subjects instead of one coordinated documentary, excellent interviews have been assembled from most of the key personnel -- Robert Redford, Glenn Close, director Levinson, writers Towne and Dusenberry, Caleb Deschanel and even Bernard Malamud's daughter. Clever graphics and handsome original-shoot recreations contribute to the flow; we are always shown relevant images, not visual "filler." The entire genesis of the show is covered, from Malamud's childhood to the reactions of big-league ball players. Robert Redford goes right to the crux of the matter when he laughingly admits that the film courted disaster by changing the book's gloom & doom ending. Ms. Close talks about minor disasters during filming and Deschanel remembers chasing bits of ebbing sunlight around a field to get the film's final shots. Although no deleted scenes are offered, a short group of sidebar attractions are amusing and informative. Other featurettes look at the Eddie Waitkus story and the wealth of classical allusions in Malamud's text; classically speaking, Roy Hobbs' fatal flaw is Hubris. The only imperfect extra on the disc is Charles Kiselyak's The Heart of The Natural, an overlong and sentimental analysis of the film's baseball significance hosted by Cal Ripken, Jr. For more information about The Natural, visit Sony Pictures. To order The Natural, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States May 1984

Released in United States Spring May 1, 1984

Completed shooting April 1984.

Released in United States May 1984

Released in United States Spring May 1, 1984