It Happens Every Spring (Lloyd Bacon, 1949): USA
Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed on FMC.
It Happens Every Spring. From the opening credits it would seem the title refers to love, but Spring is also the beginning of the baseball season and it turns out it refers to both in this enjoyable light hearted baseball fantasy.
Assistant college professor Vernon (Ray Milland) is working on an experiment which he hopes will make him enough money so that he can marry his girlfriend, Debbie (Jean Peters) who is also one of his students, and the Dean’s daughter. When a baseball flies through the window and ruins his experiment it also accidentally creates a substance that repels wood. Vernon immediately uses this substance to become a major league pitcher in order to make enough money to marry Debbie, renaming himself Kelly in the process to keep the shame of being a baseball player hidden from Deborah and her father who undoubtedly was disapprove. As his doctored baseballs continue to miss the hitter’s bats he gains fame as King Kelly and it is not long before Debbie and her father find out what Vernon’s been up to.
Ray Milland is in top form as the college professor turned baseball pitcher and the film mostly succeeds on his star power. It is also refreshing that Milland’s Kelly remains a college professor in a baseball uniform, never truly looking or acting like a baseball player, whereas a lesser film may have made him instantly look like he’d been a professional player for years. He even throws like a professor, a happy coincidence perhaps or maybe just good acting.
Paul Douglas is also very good as Monk, the team’s backup catcher, bearing a ballpark resemblance to Yogi Berra, who becomes Kelly’s roommate and personal catcher.
Given the current culture of trying to clean up baseball in the aftermath of the steroids era it seems a bit hypocritical to be enjoying a film about a guy who is blatantly cheating. His reasons for cheating don’t make it any easier as he is strictly doing it for the money and doesn’t seem to care much about the team. Yet, it still remains a fine little film with a charm all its own with an inspired ending a cut above the average sports film.
If you’re not a fan of baseball or classic Hollywood you might want to skip this one as it can seem a bit dated in places and even predictable. However, if you’re susceptible to a little Spring fever every year you might find yourself enjoying this one.
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- 10.14.11 / 1am