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It Happened at Flatbush (1942).

April 29, 2011

The Scoop:
This is another in the small wave of WWII era programmers celebrating the love affair between the borough of Brooklyn and their Dodgers baseball team. “It Happened in Flatbush” may not be original, but I have a weak spot for these movies and this one is just as fun as the others.

Frank Maguire (Lloyd Nolan), remembered in Brooklyn as a goat for costing the team a pennant years earlier with a poor play, is coaxed out of his exile in the low minor leagues to be the Dodgers’ new manager by the team’s feisty owner (Sara Allgood). But before he can start, she dies and leaves the team to her socialite niece (Carole Landis) who is completely uninterested in baseball. From there, a predictable series of misunderstandings, setbacks and triumphs lead to the expected conclusion.

The plot is pretty light and obvious, but in a charming sort of way. The supporting cast is full of familiar faces like Robert (“King Kong”) Armstrong and William (“I Love Lucy”) Frawley and the game sequences are mostly well done. But what really pulls the film together is its strong sense of place. From its great location photography on the streets of Brooklyn to the loving attention paid to the colorful residents, “It Happened in Flatbush” is a mash note to the borough at midcentury. If you’ve got even the slightest interest in that, then this is worth watching.

Best Bit:
Maguire’s courtroom speech about the hometown pride of Brooklynites.

Side Note:
This movie isn’t just a nice story about redemption on the ball field – it was also a piece of cinematic therapy for Dodger fans. Just a few months before this film came out, Brooklyn’s lovable losers had shocked the baseball world by winning the National League pennant, their first in more than two decades. They were just one pitch away from taking a huge World Series lead against the New York Yankees, their hated crosstown rivals, on the way to their first championship. But Dodger catcher Mickey Owen dropped the third strike to the Yankees’ Tommy Henrich, which opened the floodgates for New York to win the Series. Owen would carry the weight of that mistake until the next generation of Dodgers would finally break through and win Brooklyn’s only championship in 1955.

Companion Viewing:
Whistling in Brooklyn (1943).


Take a Look:
No baseball in this clip, but watch the rough and tumble Brooklyn baseball man romance the wealthy Manhattan socialite:

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