Thursday, September 26, 2013


I'm not a baseball fan, but I do like B-mysteries, and this is a good one. The St. Louis Cardinals badly need a winning season or else the manager (David Landau), deep in debt, may lose the franchise. The club is pinning its hopes for the pennant on new hotshot pitcher Robert Young. The team is slow to take to the cocky new guy (who flirts with Landau's daughter (Madge Evans), also the team's secretary), but when bribe money is found in his room—gamblers want him to throw a game—he steps up, tells the press, and proceeds to win the next game in style. Unfortunately, someone won't give up, and soon players are in danger: one is shot to death on the field, one keels over from poisoned mustard on a hot dog, and Young is shot at in his car and can't play for two weeks. Who is out the get the team? The man to whom Landau owes money? The gambler (C. Henry Gordon) who has bet against the Cardinals? The two former players hanging around the clubhouse who were fired last season for gambling? The reporter (Paul Kelly) who seems to be everywhere?

This mystery has a lot going for it. The background is a bit unusual, the team is real, the pace is fast, and the plotting is easy to follow. Young is very good in the lead and the supporting cast is a joy. Paul Kelly (pictured at left) is at his best as the brash reporter, but also fun are Ted Healy as the umpire and Nat Pendleton as the player with whom he is constantly clashing—they're at each others throats but there is affection between them, expressed in a sad scene late in the film. Other familiar faces include Joe Sawyer, Edward Brophy, and in bit parts, Ward Bond, Walter Brennan, and Mickey Rooney. The movie doesn't totally play fair as far as the solution to the mystery; the revelation of the culprit comes more or less out of nowhere (and the circumstances of his capture are a bit far-fetched). But I'm glad I ran across this little-known movie. [TCM]

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