#80) A League of Their Own (1992)

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#80) A League of Their Own (1992)

OR “[Insert Uninspired Baseball Metaphor Here]”

Directed by Penny Marshall

Written by Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel. Story by Kim Wilson & Kelly Candaele.

Class of 2012

The Plot: “A League of Their Own” is a fictional account of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, an alternative to Major League Baseball while most of their players were fighting in World War II. Oregon farmer Dottie (Geena Davis) is offered to join the league and reluctantly accepts, if she can bring along her sister Kit (Lori Petty). Led by washed up former slugger Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), the league eventually become a success, but the complicated sibling rivalry between Dottie and Kit becomes a sticking point leading up to the World Series.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises the work of Marshall, Davis and Hanks, and calls the film “an enjoyably nostalgic film about women’s choices and solidarity during World War II that was both funny and feminist.”

But Does It Really?: Oh of course. This film is just wonderful. Marshall takes an almost-forgotten piece of Americana and creates a funny and touching story that doesn’t veer into any genre clichés. The film succeeds not by standing on a soapbox and telling you that women can do anything that men can do, but rather by just unapologetically showing you. It’s also a great reminder that at one point in time a major studio released a film by a female director with a cast primarily of women, and no one sparked a childish boycott or Twitter war. Can we start doing that again please?

Shout Outs: Dugan singles out Miss Cuthbert’s performance in “The Wizard of Oz”.

Everybody Gets One: Director Penny Marshall (as well as her brother Garry), writers Ganz & Mandel, and most of the cast, notably Jon Lovitz, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty, and Bill Pullman.

Wow, That’s Dated: Six words – “This Used to Be My Playground”. Speaking of, this film is from that brief time when we let Madonna be in movies.

Seriously, Oscars?: “A League of Their Own” received zero Oscar nominations. You could say it “struck out”, but you wouldn’t because you’re better than that.

Other notes

  • Despite “A League of Their Own” breaking through several glass ceilings for women in film, Tom Hanks gets top billing.
  • Is there any more time-honored exposition dump in a film than an old newsreel? Also, hi Harry Shearer!
  • Jon Lovitz is hilarious in this film, and nothing makes me laugh harder than his reading of “Will you SHUT UP!?” I love it so much I’m just going to leave it here for future reference.
  • Who’d have thought that Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna would have such great on-screen chemistry?
  • Blink and you’ll miss Téa Leoni as one of the Racine Belles.
  • This film was made during that brief point in history when Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton were essentially the same person.
  • After the first game, everyone just assumes that despite all the hard work done by the women, it was the man who was responsible. Good thing that never happens anymore.
  • Ah, ‘40s swing dancing; essentially just tossing your female partner around as hard as you can.
  • Penny Marshall casts two of her former “Laverne & Shirley” co-stars in the film. Mae’s dance partner at the roadhouse is Eddie Mekka, aka Carmine Ragusa, and one of the baseball announcers throughout the film is David Lander, aka Squiggy (or possibly Lenny).
  • “There’s no crying in baseball!” What can I say? That scene is pretty damn perfect.
  • I gotta give kudos to Geena Davis. Dottie is one of the more dimensional female leads in a movie. Davis underplays it so perfectly it’s easy not to notice just how emotionally complex her character really is.
  • It also needs to be mentioned that both Geena Davis and her on-screen husband Bill Pullman have played the President of the United States; Davis on the short-lived series “Commander in Chief” and Pullman in some alien movie.
  • Even back then baseball had scalpers.
  • That’s Mark Holton as Older Stilwell at the end. I remember him best as Francis in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”, and for having one of the best one-liners in “The Naked Gun”. Any way you slice it, he is far too young to be playing this character.
  • I have to admit I have mixed feelings about the ending. I’ve spent two hours caring about these characters, and at the end they’re all played by different actors. It robs the film of its emotional punch just a little. Of course, they could have pulled a Harry Potter and put everyone in old age make-up to potentially disastrous results. There’s really no clear way to pull this off. This all being said, I appreciate seeing this many older actresses on screen without any of them being humorously vulgar or robbing a bank or some other crap.
  • “Exclusive cast and crew merchandise available on QVC” may be my favorite credit in any film ever.

Legacy

  • Despite the success of this film – as well as her previous endeavors “Big” and “Awakenings”, Penny Marshall’s directing career never reached these same heights again. I blame “Renaissance Man”.
  • CBS cashed in on the film’s success with a very short-lived TV series in 1993. Despite the participation of many of the film’s creatives (including Marshall, Ganz & Mandel, and Hanks directing an episode), only 5 episodes aired before getting the axe.
  • I fondly recall the times Rosie O’Donnell and Penny Marshall would reunite for appearances on Rosie’s ‘90s daytime talk show and/or to plug Kmart.
  • But of course, the real legacy is everyone who has said “There’s no crying in baseball!”

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