Sun 8 Jul 2012
IT HAPPENED IN FLATBUSH. 20th Century-Fox, 1942. Lloyd Nolan, Carole Landis, Sara Allgood, William Frawley, Robert Armstrong, Jane Darwell, George Holmes, Scotty Beckett, with Vivian Blaine in her uncredited debut. Director: Ray McCarey.
From Wikipedia: “Flatbush Avenue is the main thoroughfare through the Borough of Brooklyn.” And if you’re of a certain age, what do you think of first when someone mentions Brooklyn? Baseball, of course, and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
They apparently didn’t get the rights to use the team’s name in this movie, since the team that Lloyd Nolan’s character is the manager of is called only the “Brooklyn team,” or simply “Brooklyn” for short, but the team is the Dodgers, all right, no doubt about it. Nolan plays Frank “Butterfingers” Maguire to perfection. He fits the uniform as if he born to do so.
But how did he get the nickname Butterfingers? It turns out he was run out of town as a shortstop several years ago, having committed an crucial error in the field that cost the team the pennant. Against all the advice she’s been given, including that of the general manager (played by William Frawley, who looks exactly the same here as he did in the 1950s playing Lucy’s landlord and neighbor, Fred Mertz), the elderly lady owner (Sara Allgood) brings him back to manage the team.
Upon which point the lady owner ups and dies, leaving the ownership of the team in the hands of relatives, including society dish Kathryn Baker, played of course by pretty dark-haired Carole Landis. None of the new owners know anything about baseball, nor do they care to know, so it’s up to Nolan not only to guide the team, but to persuade Kate to spring real money for some real players.
Persuasion turns to romance, and new players mean a run for the pennant. Can Nolan escape his history of buckling under pressure to be successful at doing both? Well, if Real Life baseball manager Leo Durocher could marry movie star Laraine Day, also back in the 1940s, anything’s possible in Category 1, and as for Category 2, nothing that happens in a sports-oriented comedy could be more surprising than what happens in Real Life.
A fun if slightly fanciful movie, and of course I could watch the always charming Carole Landis in anything, even as the owner of a baseball team who ends up watching the final game of the season in the dugout.
Note: Two more short clips from this movie can be found here.