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Monday, 16 March 2020

Burl reviews It Happens Every Spring! (1949)

Batter up, it’s Burl, with a picture about baseball! Ha ha, yes, in these pestilential times perhaps a lighthearted tale of the horsehide is just the picker-upper we all need! I know it did the trick for me! Ha ha, the picture I’m talking about, the movie that upped my spirits and might do the same for yours, is a little puffballer called It Happens Every Spring!
I happen to love movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s set on college campuses! (Okay, I’ll add the 20s too, so College and The Freshman get in there!) The first act of this picture really hits that sweet spot, as we are introduced to a bookish, baseball-loving chemistry professor called Vernon, who might have been written for Gary Cooper but Coop had other things to do, so Ray Milland from Premature Burial played the part instead! Vernon’s pretty ladyfriend Miss Greanleaf, very cheerily played by Jean Peters from Niagara, wishes him to express some commitment, but the poorly-paid Vernon wants to make some marryin’ money first! When an errant baseball obliterates Vernon’s prize experiment, along with, he believes, his career and his love life, Vernon is despondent, before noticing the curious behavior of a nearby baseball!
The upshot is this: Vernon has accidentally invented a substance that repels baseballs from wood! Ha ha, I italicize this to emphasize the specificity of the chemical’s properties! Naturally, Vernon’s first instinct is to drop out completely from his previous life and run off to join the St. Louis Cardinals under the nom de bal “King Kelly!” There’s a lot of baseball after this, and plenty of animated baseballs hopping in little loops to avoid the batsmens’ timbers!
The Cards’ dog-faced catcher Monk, played by Paul Douglas, is ordered by the front office to keep a close eye on Vernon because he’s so weird, but just becomes his pal instead! Ha ha, Douglas looks about twenty years older than Milland here (an impression heightened by Monk’s regular use of “kid” to describe or address his new buddy), but was in fact a few months younger! Ha ha, at any rate I suppose it makes sense on those lonely away games for the pitcher to room with the catcher!
It all comes down to baseball, of course, and, with our modern sensibilities encumbered by too many ethics, we expect it to come down to some heartfelt scene in which Vernon realizes it’s wrong to cheat, or he is found out and shamed, or some such thing! But no, it all wraps up in a perfectly happy, non-judgmental ending with a very pleasant mob scene on a train platform!
There’s a pretty classic cast, ha ha! Team owner Edgar Stone is played by Ed Begley from Billion Dollar Brain, and his manager of course is Ted de Corsia! The dean, and father of Vernon’s ladyfriend, is played by Ray Collins from Francis, and from a bunch of other baseball movies, and a bunch of Orson Welles pictures too, ha ha! Jesse Royce Landis, whom we love so well from To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest, is his lady wife! Everybody’s here - even Alan Hale Jr., so well known from The Giant Spider Invasion!
It’s probably got too much baseball for the romantic comedy fans, but maybe they will be more forgiving because Vernon is doing it all for love! But everybody will enjoy the scenes in which other ball players, believing Vernon’s formula to be a hair tonic, comb it into their lush locks, and then find their hair flapping around anytime they bring a wooden hairbrush near it! Ha ha, they end up looking like Moe from the Three Stooges, which is a fairly short trip since most of these mugs look a lot like Moe already! Anyway, these scenes made me laugh out loud! Ha ha!
It’s no classic, but it’s charming and funny at times, and ridiculous at other times, and a little confounding! Does Vernon run out of his solution and find himself at the World Series trying to win without the help of his miracle pitches? Ha ha, that would be telling! I’m going to give It Happens Every Spring three broken hands!

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