Angels in the Outfield (1951)

“Dogs have fleas; managers have sports writers.”

AITO Poster

Synopsis:
The foul-mouthed manager (Paul Douglas) of a losing baseball team (the Pittsburgh Pirates) is visited by an angel, who promises him that a team of heavenly players will help the Pirates win the pennant — if Douglas cleans up his act. Aided by a plucky journalist (Janet Leigh) and a winsome young orphan (Donna Corcoran) who claims to actually see the team of angels, Douglas soon finds himself a changed man, and the Pirates begin winning games.

Genres:

Review:
Clearly banking upon the popularity of earlier fantasy hits such as Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Angels in the Outfield is an innocuous, somewhat derivative, yet surprisingly heartwarming “family film”. What’s not to like about watching curmudgeonly Paul Douglas turn into a respectful, child-loving teddy bear, or adorable moppet Donna Corcoran insisting loudly to her only-in-Hollywood loving nun protectors (Spring Byington and Ellen Corby) that she sees angels roosting behind each of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The story itself is, naturally, unrealistic — particularly the way in which Douglas and Leigh are magically pulled together as a May-December couple by the end of the film, despite a lack of any overtly romantic overtones — but it’s fairly easy to forgive these gaffes and simply enjoy the events as they unfold. Laugh-out-loud moments include the clever way in which the sound studio depicts Douglas’s swearing in early scenes, and Douglas’s misinterpretation of Leigh’s instruction to dry her rain-soaked shoes UNDER a warm oven.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Paul Douglas as Guffy McGovern
    AITO Douglas
  • Janet Leigh as Jennifer Paige
  • Donna Corcoran as Bridget
  • A genuinely warm-hearted, good-natured “family film”

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book (no surprise, given his love of baseball).

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One Response to “Angels in the Outfield (1951)”

  1. A must, I think, mainly for its place in cinema history. I’m referring mostly to the work of director Clarence Brown. Brown has always seemed to me a solid storyteller for the most part, if not an overwhelmingly exciting filmmaker. Some of his more interesting films are ‘Anna Christie’, a number of collaborations with Joan Crawford, ‘Song of Love’ and ‘Intruder in the Dust’. ‘Angels…’ was made near the end of his career. It’s a very charming story of someone who has a religious experience – and it’s actually surprising how un-sappy it is (when it could easily have been very much otherwise).

    In some ways, the subplot of the friendship between Douglas and pitcher Bruce Bennett which has turned sour (due to Douglas’ foul temper) is more compelling and satisfying than the main story. The twist ultimately involved here is genuinely moving.

    Admittedly, I resisted the film in the first half-hour (and am not much of a sports fan). But it started to get under my skin and I found myself swept up in the film’s overall message.

    Other fave aspects:

    -Spring Byington as avid baseball fan Sister Edwitha. It’s a funny bit when she questions how Douglas handled a particular play. Her character seems something of a forerunner to Marge Redmond’s Sister Liguori in ‘The Trouble With Angels’.

    -the always, always dependable Keenan Wynn

    -as noted, the “adorable moppet” Donna Corcoran. She apparently got out of the business early (the following year, she appeared opposite Marilyn Monroe in ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’). But, geez, what a perfectly lovely and completely natural performance she delivers in this, her first film. I was particularly charmed when Byington gently explained she was bringing in another doctor to have a look at her – not another GP, but a psychiatrist. Without knowing what kind of doctor is next, and asked if it’s ok, Corcoran replies: “Sure. You wanna find out if I’m wacky.” If for no other reason, see the film for her.

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