Wednesday, November 22, 2017

There's No Crying in Baseball

A League of Their Own
Director: Penny Marshall
Cast: Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz, Bill Pullman
Released: July 1, 1992

When people think of baseball movies, I'm sure this one is always at the top of the list. And when people think of movies with a predominately all-female cast, I'm sure this one is also at the top of that list. It is set during 1943 which means since there is a war going on, there is no longer anymore Major League Baseball since all the men are overseas. This movie tells the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (or the AAGPBL (it's still quite a mouthful even when it's abbreviated!)) 

Sisters Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit Hinson (Lori Petty) who live in Willamette, Oregon are recruited by an AAGPBL scout named Ernie (Jon Lovitz) who wants to take them to Chicago to be on a team. Correction: he only wants to recruit Dottie who is an exceptionally good player (she can easily catch a ball without a glove and without any warning a ball is being thrown to her). Dottie has no desire to leave her rural farm life and wants to wait for her husband (Bill Pullman) to return home from the war. Her younger sister, Kit, who loves baseball, but isn't as good as her Dottie really wants this opportunity and Dottie tells Ernie she'll go to Chicago, but only if Kit can also go to which he agrees. 

They make a pit stop in Fort Collins, Colorado so Ernie can check out a ball player named Marla that he hears is really great. And she is really great and she's ready to sign her and take her to Chicago until he gets closer to her and she lifts her hat up so he can see her face and it is revealed she is quite homely. At first he doesn't want to sign her, despite her being a great hitter, because image seems to be the first and foremost priority of the team. They are looking for beautiful young women to wear short skirts (although what's the point since the majority of their target audience are overseas, anyway?) However, Dottie and Kit refuse to go on unless Marla also goes with them.

They find out they will be playing for a team called the Rockford Peaches (such a...wussy name....haha, that reminds me, my dad and I went to someone's house once (I forget who or where or what for) and they owned a cat named Peaches (because it was orange) and after we left, my dad said that was a wussy name). We meet some of the other players, most notably "All the Way" Mae (played by Madonna - I think you can guess why they call her "All the Way Mae")  and her smart mouth friend, Doris (played by Rosie O'Donnell). There's also a player who can't read and needs help from another player to see if she made the team because she wouldn't know if her name was on the list or not. In another scene, we see Mae (whoops, almost typed Madonna!) teaching her how to read on the bus, using an erotica (no pun intended, I swear! I forgot for a split second that that's a name of a Madonna song) novel. Tea Leoni is also a player and last, but not least, there's a woman who has a young son who is a complete and utter brat and she has to bring him along to all the games.

The first time they are all gathered is when they learn they'll be wearing skirts which they think is ridiculous because how can they slide in skirts?  This is also when we learn they'll be going to charm school because this was 1943 and everything was so sexist back then. One of the instructors gives a stylist advice on what to do with each player's hair and/or skin and when she comes to Marla, she doesn't have any advice to make her look any better.

We see a montage of the girls being photographed for newspapers and magazines and one of the headlines is (and get ready to roll your eyes!), "Trading oven mitts for baseball mitts!" Ugh. Just ugh. Oh, wait. That might not be the worst part. There's a TV ad about the new league and a voiceover says, "Girls playing baseball?" Yes, I don't know which one is worse. We also get a montage of many of their games and this is where we see Dottie catching a ball while doing the splits and a huge nasty bruise on the back thigh one of the players received after sliding onto one of the bases. I thought for sure it was just make up because this thing is huge, but after doing some research, apparently it was real. Ewww. And ouch!

The Peaches' coach/manager is former player for the Cubs (he hit 58 home runs in 1936), Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) who is not thrilled to be coaching a bunch of women at first and spends most of his time drinking, but does come around in the end. He gives us the most famous line in the entire movie, "There's no crying in baseball!"

There's a very odd scene where he has to deliver bad news to one of the players that her husband has been killed in the war. It's odd because we first get a mail carrier who comes to the locker room after a game, announcing he has a telegram for one of the ladies from the war department. Well, this could only be bad news and all of them (well, the ones who are married and/or have a loved one overseas) are all understandably apprehensive about this news. The mail carrier is being really callous, saying how this should have been sent personally for someone to find out that their husband is dead. He looks through the list which doesn't have the name of the receiver and tells them he has to go back to the post office to straighten it out. Seriously, you just told this group of women that one of their husbands is dead, and now you have to go back and straighten something out, only making it more agonizing for them to have to wait any longer to find out who is getting possibly the worst news of their life? Yeah, that just seems really unprofessional and something that would never happen in the real world. By this time, Jimmy has taken a liking to his players now and demands that the carrier give him the telegram. He has to snatch it out of his hand and push him out of the room with the carrier protesting about it being "official war business." Dugan opens the letter and reads it, finding out who is about to get bad news. Now I realize there's no good way to tell someone their spouse is dead, but I think in this instance the best way would be for Jimmy to announce the name from where he's standing. Instead, he slowly starts to head to the brand new widow, making the other women he passes fearful that it might be one of them who he's headed to. This includes Dottie who is very scared that her husband, Bob, is dead. Of course, the woman he is headed to, Betty Spaghetti (I think they call her that because she makes a mean spaghetti?), is towards the back, so therefore he passes many women on his way to deliver her the telegram.

In the very next scene, Bob has arrived in Rockford after being discharged from from the army. This literally happens thirty seconds right after Betty received her telegram that I was sure that this was a dream sequence and Dottie was imaging her husband was with her, after hearing the horrible news about Betty's husband, but no, after a few minutes, I realized that this was reality. This is around the time where the Peaches lose a few of their players. Obviously Betty doesn't come back after losing her husband. Dottie decides to leave when her husband returns because she wants to starts a family with him. Despite her looks, even Marla finds love and marries a man she met at a club all the players snuck out to one night and marries him shortly after.

Because of the Hinson sister's rivalry, Kit has been traded to the Racine Belles (yeah, female sports teams sure had some wimpy names). Wearing skirts comes in handy for them because their motto is "Dirt in the skirt". Dottie has decided to play until the end of the season so she is playing against her sister when the Peaches and the Belles are playing against each other in a game that will determine the champion. Dottie gives the pitcher advice since she knows her sister and Kit misses the first two, but hits a home run. Dottie had caught the ball, but dropped it, declaring Kit safe.

The movie starts and ends in "present day" 1992 where Dottie is going to visit an exhibition of the AAGPBL at the Baseball Hall of Fame. At first I thought it was Geena Davis in old age makeup, because that was certainly her voice I was hearing, but it didn't quite look like her. I found out they got older actresses to play elder Dottie and Kit, but had Geena Davis and Lori Petty do the voiceovers, which was very odd. The young boy who used to be a nuisance is now a middle aged man and comes to pay his respects to the team and tells the others that his mother has died. We also learn that Jimmy has also in 1987.

The movie ends with Madonna's "This Used to Be My Playground" playing over the credits. I was familiar with that song, but I had no idea it was used in the movie. It's a bit of a downer song for it: "This used to be my playground, this used to be my childhood dream. This used to be the place I ran to whenever I was in need of a friend....why did it have to end?" Yeah, pretty dreary lyrics! They could have at least changed the title to "This Used to Be My Ball Field."

I believe this is the only Madonna movie I've seen and she's really only a background character. Her one big scene in the movie is when they sneak out to a club called the Suds Bucket and she swings dance, which she's quite good at (I'm assuming that was really her!) This is probably smart of me that A League of Their Own is the only Madonna movie I've seen because from what I've heard, she's a terrible actress. I never saw Evita or the one where she has a baby with her gay friend or any of the ones she made when she was married to Guy Ritchie.

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