Angels in the Outfield (1951)

angelsAngels in the Outfield is a lighthearted baseball movie about Guffy, the belligerent coach of a losing team who “meets” an angel. The angel, who is by no means tender or sweet, challenges Guffy to shape up. With a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, the angel offers to help Guffy win some ball games if he can stop fighting and using foul language. Guffy, who is convinced of the angel’s existence and power, sets out be a better man—at first if only for the sake of winning more games.

Guffy is played by Paul Douglas, with great turns by: Janet Leigh, as the reporter obsessed with covering Guffy’s every move; Spring Byington, as the pragmatic nun—and baseball enthusiast—who runs the orphanage; and Donna Corcoran as the adorable orphan whose prayers for her losing team prompt a band of angels to come to the rescue.

For another look at this movie, check out Bill's review.

Being John Malkovich (1999) R

MV5BMTUyMjI4OTE3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzMxMTUxMQ@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Being John Malkovich is one of those quirky, funny movies that you just can’t miss. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a puppeteer who discovers…well, let’s just come out and say it…he discovers a portal directly into the brain of John Malkovich. Anyone who walks through the door will actually see what John Malkovich sees for about 15 minutes.

Look back at what Roger Ebert had to say.

The Lady Eve (1941)

ladyeveThis screwball comedy from the golden age of movies is the story of a backward scientist who falls in love twice with the same woman. Picked up by an ocean liner on his way home from a scientific expedition in South America, Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), heir of the Pike’s Ale Pikes, falls under the charms of shipboard card sharps, one of them the beautiful Jean (Barbara Stanwyck). Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by the beautiful Jean, he proposes, only to find out Jean’s true background and break off the engagement.

Bent on revenge, Jean shows up in Connecticut, now sporting an English accent and presenting herself as the Lady Eve. Smitten all over again, young Charles does exactly what Jean had planned—falls in love with her all over again. Unluckily for Jean and her plans, though, she kind of loves the backward boy.

The sparkling classic The Lady Eve was directed by the brilliant Preston Sturges.

The Italian Straw Hat (1928)

italianstrawThe beauty of a silent movie is its universality; no language barrier comes between you and the delight of the film. The Italian Straw Hat is a French movie whose alternate title pretty much tells the story: The Horse Ate the Hat. Fadinard, a young man on his way to his wedding, has a confrontation along the way when his horse eats the straw hat of a young married lady having a dalliance in the woods with an army officer not her husband. Feeling she can’t go home without the prized hat, the lady and her lover blackmail the young groom into finding a replacement hat.

In the midst of trying to get married, trying to find a hat, trying to keep his relatives from finding the officer and his lady hiding in his apartment, Fadinard has quite a day. The comic timing and antics keep you laughing from beginning to end.

Back to the Future (1985) PG

backfutureMarty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, is accidentally sent back in time 30 years to 1955 by his friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). While Marty works desperately to find a way back to the future, he inadvertently interferes with the relationship of his high school age parents. If he does not get them to unite, he may cease to exist. Christopher Lloyd is brilliant as nutty Doc Brown, and Michael J. Fox has just the right combination of awkward and cool to make you laugh and cheer at the same time. Back to the Future is a fun adventure comedy that the whole family will love.

Angels in the Outfield (1951)

angelsIn this baseball comedy, Guffy McGovern (Paul Douglas), the manager of a very awful Pittsburgh Pirates team, is foul mouthed, hated by his players, ridiculed by the fans, and regularly badmouthed by the Pirates radio announcer (Keenan Wynn). Newspaper reporter Jennifer Paige (Janet Leigh) is assigned to cover the Pirates and give a woman’s perspective on the team. When she initially tries to interview McGovern, he gives her a very impolite brushoff.

A short time later, an angel contacts McGovern, and tells him that someone has been praying for him and the Pirates. If McGovern can control his temper, the angel and some of his friends will help the Pirates win a few games. McGovern agrees and suddenly this heretofore awful Pirates team are playing great baseball.

Bridget White (Donna Corcoran), an orphan who is hoping to be adopted, has been praying for the Pirates. One day, the girls at the orphanage are brought to the ballpark by two nuns (played by longtime character actors Spring Byington and Ellen Corby). During the game, Bridget witnesses the angels helping the Pirates. Nobody else can see the angels. Paige writes a story about Bridget, which causes a lot of complications for all involved. But it also leads to lot of good things including an unlikely romance between McGovern and Paige.

Angels in the Outfield has a lot of laughs and a lot of heart, plus a few cameo appearances by Bing Crosby, baseball greats Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio, and famous songwriter Harry Ruby. It also has some stock footage showing old Comiskey Park.

This is my favorite baseball movie and I hope you enjoy it too. You can also peruse our list of other baseball films.

Spotlight: Silent Comedy

Never was comic timing and sight gags at such a high point as in the silent movies of these comic geniuses.

Buster Keaton in The Navigator (1924). Spoiled rich boy Rollo Treadwell and his equally spoiled neighbor Betsy O’Brien find themselves adrift in the ship The Navigator. The two hapless drifters are at first completely at a loss when they have to try to feed themselves by opening cans of food or boiling water, but as the time goes by, they devise clever management skills and learn to work together to fight off swordfish and cannibals.

Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925). The little tramp, Chaplin’s signature character, goes to the Klondike in search of gold. There he survives the bitter winter, makes his fortune, and wins the girl. Along the way he enjoys the famous boiled leather dinner and performs the dance of the dinner rolls.

Harry Langdon in The Strong Man (1926). At the end of WWI, a little, mild-mannered Belgian immigrant comes to America looking for his beloved pen pal, Mary Brown. All he knows is that she lives in America. He joins in the stage act of fellow immigrant Zandow the Great, the Strong Man, going on in his stead when Zandow is incapacitated. Langdon also performs his famous backwards climb up the stairs. Directed by Frank Capra.

Harold Lloyd in The Kid Brother (1927). Harold Hickory is the youngest and scrawniest of the Hickory boys whose father is the town sheriff. When his father is accused of theft, Harold sets out to prove to his family, his girl, and his town that he is the equal of any Hickory in Hickoryville.

Better Off Dead (1985) PG

betteroffdeadStarring John Cusack, Better Off Dead is a cult, coming-of-age classic from the 80s which has catch phrases a plenty, quirky characters, and ONE LANE MEYER. Lane, a high school student, is having a bad year what with his girlfriend dumping him among other family crises. So, he decides to kill himself. But don’t worry, he isn’t very good at it, and in the end, he learns the language of love and has a renewed interest in living. This is a great movie and very funny, which you will want to watch again and again.
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Spotlight: Olivia de Havilland, Comedic Actress

oliviadehavillandWhat, Olivia de Havilland, Melanie of Gone with the Wind, Maid Marion of The Adventures of Robin Hood in a comedy? Several, actually. Try these.

It's Love I'm After (1937)

Leslie Howard plays Basil, an egotistic Broadway star in a drama filled relationship with Joyce, his leading lady, played by Bette Davis. Enter Marcia, a star struck society girl played by de Havilland, and the fireworks begin.

Hard to Get (1938)

Maggie Richards, played by de Havilland, is a spoiled rich girl who storms out of her house in a rage, borrowing a car in her escape. When she runs out of gas, she finds she doesn't have the means to pay up and spends the rest of the day cleaning the motor court cabins. Vowing revenge against Bill, the motor court attendant, she plots an elaborate plan to build him up and then bring him down to size.

The Male Animal (1942)

Henry Fonda plays Tommy, a literature professor at Midwest University, and Ellen, played by de Havilland, is his lovely young wife. When her old beau Joe, the former star of the football team, played by Jack Carson, visits for homecoming weekend, Tommy gets jealous. What do women want from the male animal, brains or brawn?

The Princess Bride (1987) PG

princessbrideThe Princess Bride was adapted by William Goldman from his novel, which he says was inspired by a book he read as a child, but its transformation by his wicked adult imagination has made the story witty and irreverent. And the film adaptation has remained popular since its original release in 1987.

It is story within a story with Peter Falk as a grandfather reading a fairy tale to his reluctant grandson. This clever romantic comedy-fantasy-adventure film can be enjoyed by every member of the family.

And if you can’t get enough of The Princess Bride, check out Cary Elwes’ (Westley) recent book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.

Way Out West (1937)

wayoutwestIn Way Out West, Laurel and Hardy are at their comedic best as would be gold miners on a mission to deliver the deed to a rich gold mine to the prospector's daughter, Mary Roberts. Perfectly timed slapstick ensues when the deed is stolen by Mary's unscrupulous guardian and our two hapless heroes must get it back. Particularly charming is Laurel and Hardy's saloon door soft shoe.

Midnight in Paris (2011) PG-13

midnightinparisWhat a love story – between me and this movie! I have watched Midnight in Paris more than 10 times. The music! And the scenery of Paris is outstanding!

It is the story of a young author and his fiancée in Paris, and what happens to him while lost in Paris at midnight. It is so exciting as he travels back in time to meet the creative culture of the 1920s. How many can you recognize? The characters are played exactly according to their real personalities. Hemingway (Corey Stoll) – straightforward, tough drinker; Zelda (Alison Pill) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) – as crazy as they were in real life; and Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo)… Be sure to watch the bonus ending to learn how and why Woody Allen portrayed Paris.
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The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

bishopswifeChristmas miracles happen when Dudley the Angel (Cary Grant) appears on the scene. The Reverend Henry Brougham (David Niven) is so caught up in his fundraising/building project that he loses sight of the importance of his work and his family. Dudley knows just what to do to make things right with his wife (Loretta Young). Grant, Young, and Niven do an excellent job of convincing us that angels really are an instrumental part of life on earth in The Bishop’s Wife.

The Lego Movie (2014) PG

legomovieA fun, funny, and somewhat crazy movie! It was amazing to see the familiar Lego blocks transformed by 3D computer animation in The Lego Movie.

Music and Lyrics (2007) PG-13

musicandlyricsHugh Grant plays a has-been pop star from the 80s doing backwoods promotional appearances when he is approached by a teen sensation to write a song for her. His strength has always been music, not lyrics. He unexpectedly finds a struggling young writer (Drew Barrymore) who insists she is not a lyricist. In the tradition of romantic comedies, we can figure out what happens but it is an entertaining journey complete with good old fashioned 80ish songs and music videos.

Despite the gap in their ages, Barrymore and Grant make a believable couple with chemistry bouncing off the screen in Music and Lyrics.