DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
BABE RUTH STORY, THE (director: Roy Del Ruth; screenwriters: George Callahan/Bob Considine/from the book by Bob Considine; cinematographer: Philip Tannura; editor: Richard Heermance; music: Edward Ward; cast: William Bendix (Babe Ruth), Claire Trevor (Claire Ruth), William Frawley (Jack Dunn), Charles Bickford (Father Matthias), Sam Levene (Phil Conrad), Matt Briggs (Col. Jacob Ruppert), Fred Lightner (Miller Huggins), Pat Flaherty (Bill Carrigan, Red Sox Manager), Mel Allen (Himself, radio announcer), Harry Wismer (Himself, radio announcer), Ralph Dunn  (Babe Ruth's father), Bobby Ellis (Babe Ruth as a boy), Mark Koenig (Himself, Ruth teammate), Knox Manning (Narrator); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roy Del Ruth; Fox Video; 1948)

 
"Sappy but entertaining nostalgic biopic on Babe Ruth."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Roy Del Ruth ("Red Light"/"Winner Take All"/"The West Point Story") helms this sappy but entertaining nostalgic biopic on Babe Ruth, that paints him as a fun-loving saintly bigger-than-life character. Though William Bendix looks somewhat like the Babe, it's hard to believe his comical characterization of baseball's greatest slugger. The old-fashioned sports drama as told to sports writer Bob Considine by the Babe, asks only that the viewer grab a cold Ruppert beer, rejoice in the baseball anthem of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and let the game that Abner Doubleday invented in 1839 be enjoyed for the slice of Americana it is. In the Hollywood formulaic biopic way, it chronicles the life of the Babe from his troubled childhood until his Ruthian days with the champion New York Yankees—including the time he called his home run shot over the centerfield wall into the bleachers against the Cubs in the 1932 World Series. 

The Ruth legend begins in 1906, on the Baltimore, Maryland waterfront, where the motherless George Herman Ruth (played as a child by Bobby Ellis), works in his bully father's saloon. Always getting into childish trouble over playing ball instead of working, George is sent back to St. Mary's Industrial School to get him out of the bad saloon environment. St. Mary's is run by the caring Brother Matthias (Charles Bickford), who takes a special interest in the kid. By 1913, it's determined George is better suited for baseball than as a tailor and is signed as a left-handed pitcher to the International League's Baltimore Orioles by manager Jack Dunn (William Frawley), who dubs him with the nickname "Babe." In 1914, after winning twelve consecutive games, Babe (William Bendix) is sold to the Boston Red Sox. During a losing streak, where opposing teams pick up when he's to deliver a curve ball, he meets chorine Claire Hodgson (Claire Trevor), who tips him off that he has been telegraphing his curve balls by sticking out his tongue just before the pitch. The Babe goes on from there to win three championships for the Bosox. In 1918, during the Red Sox training camp in Tampa, Florida, Babe hits the longest home run in the history of baseball--600 feet. He also says "Hi" to a crippled boy fan who is so overwhelmed that he stands for the first time. Babe now quits pitching and becomes a left fielder. In 1919, the Bambino breaks all records by hitting twenty-nine home runs in one season and in 1920 he's sold for a record six figures to brewery owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert, owner of the New York Yankees. The rest is baseball history, the stuff of legends, as Ruth's 60 home runs in 1927 stayed a record until modern times. 1927 was also the year the Babe married Claire.

The homage movie to baseball as the nation's past-time and the iconic Ruth as the good-hearted overgrown child who became the nation's hero, was released the same year Ruth died which might explain its overload on sentimentality. If you rely on this sugar-coated film to get your knowledge of the Babe, you'll find the scoreboard lit up with errors.

REVIEWED ON 1/18/2009       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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