ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD (1951) B/W 99m dir: Clarence Brown
w/Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh, Keenan Wynn, Donna Corcoran, Lewis Stone, Spring Byington, Bruce Bennett, Marvin Kaplan, Ellen Corby, Jeff Richards, John Gallaudet, King Donovan, Don Haggerty, Paul Salata, Fred Graham, John McKee, Patrick J. Molyneaux, James Whitmore
From Variety's contemporary review of the film: "Clarence Brown has carved a tremendously satisfying filmization from a script [written by Dorothy Kingsley and George Wells, based on a story by Richard Conlin] that, from every evidence, could have gone completely haywire if handled clumsily, dealing as it does with fantasy. Religious angle also presented a delicate situation, but Brown has handled it all masterfully.
"Pivotal character is Paul Douglas, who plays one of the most tyrannical, blasphemous managers in the history of baseball. His team is in seventh place and is headed into the sub-basement when somebody unknown to Douglas intercedes with the Angel Gabriel. A voice tells Douglas to look for a miracle in the third inning of a crucial game.
"Janet Leigh's paper, the Pittsburgh Messenger, prints her interview with a little orphan girl who swears she has seen angels standing alongside the men of Douglas's team, helping them win. Douglas, accidentally conked by a line drive, admits to the press that the angels are helping him. This brings on an investigation into his sanity by the baseball commissioner. Douglas is perfect as the brawler reformed by a little girl's prayers. Leigh foils cleverly. Donna Corcoran plays the orphan."
From the Turner Classic Movies website (www.tcm.com), this 2003 article about the film by Rob Nixon:
"It's almost emblematic of the Eisenhower Years that the President's favorite movie was Angels in the Outfield (1951), a comedy about a troupe of angels who come down from heaven to help the Pittsburgh Pirates win the pennant. But although MGM sought to maximize its appeal by releasing it in October 1951 just before and during the World Series, it didn't really become a widely treasured gem until it first played on television ten years later --- in the Kennedy Era. A remake was released in Summer 1994, complete with special-effects angels bearing wings and halos (this earlier version didn't show that), but most people found it dull and lifeless, especially compared to the original, directed by MGM veteran (and one of Garbo's favorites) --- Clarence Brown.
"Paul Douglas plays Guffy McGovern, the gruff, foul-mouthed manager of the perpetually losing Pirates. But one night after a game he runs into the Archangel Gabriel on the second base line. The invisible messenger, spokesman for the 'Heavenly Choir Nine,' tells Guffy to look for a miracle in tomorrow's game. When the team suddenly wins, Guffy knows he's getting some divine help, but he stays mum about it. Then a pretty blonde newspaper reporter (Janet Leigh) is assigned to cover the sport from 'the women's angle' and she interviews a little orphan girl from St. Gabriel's Parish who attends games with some baseball-loving nuns. The child swears she can see an angel standing beside each Pirate player as if in answer to her prayers to help the team win. When Guffy is beaned by a line drive, he suddenly opens up about his deal with heaven, and a vindictive sportscaster (Keenan Wynn) that Guffy had fired from the Pirates announcers booth starts a smear campaign against the manager that results in a baseball commission hearing on the day of the crucial pennant game.
"Douglas was a rather unlikely candidate for stardom, but for a few years in the late '40s to mid-50s, this burly middle-aged guy enjoyed a good measure of popularity with movie audiences. A former pro football player and radio sports announcer, Douglas made his name on Broadway playing mobster Harry Brock in the comedy Born Yesterday. Although he had made his movie debut at the age of 42 in A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and made two other pictures that year, including another baseball fantasy-comedy It Happens Every Spring (1949), he turned down the film version of Born Yesterday (1950). But that decision didn't set him back; a string of pictures followed, often comedies in which he made bearish bluster humorous and appealing. Although it was one of his most popular films, Douglas once described Angels in the Outfield as 'a pretty crummy movie,' but after his death in 1959, his widow, actress Jan Sterling, insisted he had been kidding.
"One aspect of the McGovern character that presented a problem for the studio was his frequent unabashed swearing. Putting words like 'fudge' and 'darn' in his mouth would have been ludicrous and out of character. So the MGM sound department came up with the idea of having Douglas mouth the epithets then record them backwards on the soundtrack so they sounded like gibberish. At least that was the story that went out. But Hal Erickson, author of the book Baseball in the Movies (McFarland and Co.), claimed he taped a swearing scene on reel-to-reel and ran it backwards, only to discover that the lines still sounded like gibberish. Apparently, MGM wasn't taking any chances that some smart-aleck projectionist might flip the reverse switch. Douglas' gruff performance also did much to make the character's tendency to curse convincing. In one scene, Guffy gets into a heated argument with an umpire, but because he's vowed to abstain from swearing, he substitutes quotes from Shakespeare for the curses.
"Much of the film was shot on location --- unusual for the time --- at the Pittsburgh ball field (with some shots done at Los Angeles' Wrigley Field) using actual Pirates game footage. A touch of comic reality was also injected by using baseball legends Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio, songwriter Harry Ruby, and Bing Crosby (who owned 15% of the actual Pittsburgh Pirates) as themselves in mock interview sequences. Also check the cast for Ellen Corby (the future Grandma Walton of TV's The Waltons) as a sports-fan nun, Lewis Stone (Judge Hardy from the popular Mickey Rooney series) as the baseball commissioner, and Barbara 'June Cleaver' Billingsley in an uncredited bit as a hat check girl.
"Because distributors didn't think European audiences would catch the baseball reference to 'outfield' in the title, the picture was renamed for foreign distribution. Apparently no thought was given to whether audiences paying to see The Angels and the Pirates would be expecting a swashbuckling adventure story."