Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is presenting The Third Doris Day Blogathon running from April 3 - 5, 2019. Enjoy all the contributions HERE.
Warner Brothers generally kept their popular leading lady Doris Day busy in musicals, but in 1952 she was cast as the real-life Aimee Alexander, wife of Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander in The Winning Team.
Doris had recorded the Inez James and Buddy Pepper song Ol' St. Nicholas in 1949 and it was anachronistically placed it in this film in a Christmas scene set in 1911. Audiences used to having Doris sing in her movies at least would not be disappointed. Baseball fans might find the script a little sticky going, but should enjoy the historical aspects presented.
Grover Cleveland Alexander, mother, and wife
Above, Alexander is pictured in uniform as a Sergeant with the 342nd Field Artillery in France during WWI. There he suffered trauma from the noise and from the German unleashing of mustard gas. The PTSD and physical ill effects which brought on epilepsy, combined with using alcohol to relieve the pain and fear, created problems for "Old Pete", both on and off the field.
The Winning Team screenplay plays fast and loose with the timeline of Alexander's life and relies on the rose-coloured memories of Mrs. Alexander as a consultant. The couple was married twice, first in 1918-1929 and then from 1931-1941. Their bond appears to have been as deep as their troubles.
The Winning Team presents the couple marrying in 1911 and the film climaxes with Alexander's spectacular performance for the St. Louis Cardinals against the New York Yankees in the 1926 World Series. That World Series triumph is a natural conclusion for movies where happy endings can be manipulated.
Dorothy Adams, Doris Day, Ronald Reagan
Mother Alexander, Aimee, Grover
The film follows Alexander from his engagement to Aimee and his vow to buy a farm although his talent and his heart definitely belong to baseball. Eventually, Aimee comes to accept this in her husband and becomes his biggest supporter. The passage of years is presented in Aimee's scrapbooks on her husband's career, but it is just as much fun to follow time through her changing fashions. Doris' sunny screen persona is used to good advantage in the role of number one cheerleader until secrets about Grover's illness and his drinking habit force a separation.
Ronald Reagan as Grover Cleveland Alexander
Life turns down a dark alley.
Frank Lovejoy, Ronald Reagan
Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander
Many real-life ballplayers are featured in the film and through archival footage used to recreate games. The excitement of the sharing of the World Series over the radio and electric signboards, plus the camaraderie of the crowd is expertly conveyed.
James Millican, Hugh Sanders, Ronald Reagan
Bill Killefer, Joe McCarthy, Grover Cleveland Alexander
None of the lead actors playing actual ballplayers are as young as they ought to be at the beginning of the film since "kid" is the most often used term of address. It is easy to accept that movie reality as the actors grow into their age. Reagan, in particular, looks quite comfortable in the role of an athlete and ably conveys Alexander's confusion and fear when things start to go wrong.
Ronald Reagan, Doris Day
Grover and Aimee
Portrayed as The Winning Team, it is a happy pairing of actors in Ronald Reagan and Doris Day, whose appearance in the previous year's Storm Warning did not have their characters interact. In real life, they had dated briefly, but Fate or Cupid had other plans. Nonetheless, on screen, they exhibit a sense of fun and belonging as the beleaguered pitcher and his wife.
Grover Cleveland Alexander
There's something to be said for being the fellow at the beginning of the alphabet. Check out this 1949 poem by Ogden Nash, Line-Up for Yesterday.
Apparently, in the world of movie baseball, there was only one home plate umpire. When a scene called for one in The Winning Team it was always Bill Klem, a posthumous Hall of Fame inductee known as The Old Arbitrator. At any rate, the casting of this role is a boon to those fans eager for Pat Flaherty sightings.
John Beradino pictured here as Cardinals' pitcher Bill Sherdel was a major league infielder for the St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians, and Pittsburgh Pirates until an injury ended his career. Turning to acting, you can spot Beradino in Seven Men from Now, North by Northwest, Suddenly, Them!, etc. This is years before his three Daytime Emmy nominations as Dr. Steve Hardy on General Hospital, celebrating its 56th anniversary this week.