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Posnanski with some interesting thoughts on Ruth movies

from the Athletic top 100 baseball players

So why is Babe Ruth different? He’s definitely different. Ruth is not just in the all-time argument for greatest baseball player ever; he is the argument.

How? That’s the real question, right? How does Ruth stay so vibrant and brilliant and untouchable in our minds when every other athlete’s power cracks and fades with the years? How can Ruth, who played in the time of Model Ts and vaudeville, still be the essential baseball player in a world of Teslas and Netflix?

And, in a seemingly unconnected question, why can’t they make a decent movie about him?

“Yes! The Babe! Superman of baseball! The most famous and colorful athlete in the game’s history! The incomparable, unpredictable Babe Ruth, American as the hot dog, soda pop and chewing gum, this man was Mr. Baseball himself!”

— The narrator in “The Babe Ruth Story”

Holy cow is “The Babe Ruth Story” bad. A few players ago, I went into pretty grim details about the awfulness of “The Winning Team,” a film about Grover Cleveland Alexander, and that movie is quite terrible. But honestly, “The Winning Team” is “The Godfather” when put up against “The Babe Ruth Story.”

I want to give you a sense of just how bad “The Babe Ruth Story” is without actually asking you to see it. There are many ways to do this, but I’ll just tell you about one scene. Babe Ruth, played with near-comical awfulness by William Bendix — it’s almost funny — is taking batting practice when he hits a foul grounder and the baseball hits a dog that had run onto the field. Ruth is mortified and rushes over to the dog and his freckled boy owner.

“I’m sorry, kid,” Ruth says. “I didn’t mean it. Honest! The pooch just ran out on the field and …”

“Gee, Babe,” the boy says. “Peewee won’t die, will he, Babe? He won’t die?”

(Please reread this previous line, but do it as you would imagine it sounding when spoken in the fastest and most lifeless monotone you have ever heard in your life.)

“No, son, he won’t die,” Ruth says. “We won’t let him die. We’re going to take him to the biggest and best hospital in town!”

And this is what they did. They took Peewee to the best hospital in town. Not a veterinary hospital. A people hospital. Ruth, still in full uniform, rushes to the front desk and demands the hospital get the best doctor to operate on the dog. He is furious when the women at the front desk tell him they tend to do most of their work on people. He ducks into an operating room, where he is soon surrounded by doctors.

“Ain’t this a hospital?” Ruth rages. “Ain’t you guys doctors? Whaddya mean you won’t operate just because he’s a dog? … What’s more human than this little pooch?”

I did not make up any of that.

But here’s the most remarkable part of “The Babe Ruth Story” — it might not be the worst Babe Ruth movie. No, you have to give full consideration to “The Babe,” made in 1992, starring John Goodman. Film critic Roger Ebert, on the show “Siskel & Ebert,” summed it up this way: “This is a sad movie about a sad man, and although the ads make it look like a comedy, the experience of seeing it is more like living with an alcoholic relative.”

That probably sounds harsh if you haven’t seen “The Babe.” If you have seen it, you are thinking right now, “Oh, come on, it was way worse than that.”

The money scene in “The Babe” is when Ruth visits a sick kid in a hospital.

“Babe’s gonna sock you a home run in the game tomorrow,” Ruth says. “Will that make you feel better, Johnny?”

And with this, poor Johnny — using all the strength he can muster while enduring whatever terrible disease he has — slowly reaches out his hand and signals (wait for it) that he wants two home runs.

“Two?” Ruth asks in shock. “Two?”

It doesn’t seem possible for one life to spur two movies that are that bad. What is it about Babe Ruth’s life that seduces filmmakers and at the same time eludes them?

As The New York Times wrote in the lead of its obituary: “Probably nowhere in all the imaginative field of fiction could one find a career more dramatic and bizarre than portrayed in real life by George Herman Ruth.”

How could filmmakers resist a story like that? They couldn’t.

So why did they fail so miserably? That’s tougher.

In other words, Ruth was almost impossible to pin down. Was he a big-hearted oaf? Yes. Was he a womanizing drunk? Yes. Was he a friendly soul? Yes. Was he a manipulative son of a gun? Yes. Could he be magnanimous? Could he be cruel? Could he be childish? Could he be cynical? Yes is the answer to everything with the Babe.

And maybe that’s part of the reason no one has made a good movie about him. How do you make a movie about someone who is everything and nothing at the same time? How do you make a movie about the wind?

“‘The Babe’ is a movie that wants to tell the truth behind the legend,” Ebert said, “but I don’t think it does, and I’m not sure I want to know the truth if it did want to tell it.”...

(In response to this post by jdubforwahoowa)

Link: worth the subscription

Posted: 05/22/2020 at 12:58PM


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Current Thread:
  How do they know he won’t win a few more... ** -- TheTruth09 05/22/2020 10:16AM
  Flooded with what? Ten part documentaries? -- naughty_hoo 05/22/2020 09:12AM
  I do wish they could give Babe Ruth this treatment. -- jdubforwahoowa 05/22/2020 09:48AM
  William Bendix is dead, as well. ** -- jdubforwahoowa 05/22/2020 11:15AM
  Ruth and that time period is simply fascinating... -- Yosemite Sam 05/22/2020 10:13AM
  Schumacher but the family would probably sue ** -- Mg234 05/22/2020 09:51AM

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