I had never seen either version of Angels in the Outfield. Mainly because Field of Dreams aside, I’m not much for sports fantasies. I’d certainly never considered watching the 1994 version, which earned a 33% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 49% audience rating.
The other night, bored and listless, I decided to watch the black-and-white 1951 version. To my surprise it won me over within 15 or 20 minutes.
It’s basically a redemption story — A Christmas Carol set in Pittsburgh. Paul Douglas is Guffy McGovern, a coarse, foul-mouthed brute of a Pittsburgh Pirates manager, loathed by just about everyone. One evening he’s visited by an invisible, craggy-voiced angel who tells him “become a better person and I’ll fix it so the Pirates start winning some games.” Douglas goes along, and before you know it everything has turned around — his life, the fortunes of the Pirates, even his non-existent love life (i.e., local reporter Janet Leigh takes an interest).
Complications ensue, of course, but that’s pretty much it — an abusive asshole becomes a better person with some heavenly assistance. It’s a minor effort but it works.
Based on a story by Richard Conlin, Angels in the Outfield was written by Dorothy Kingsley and George Wells, and directed by Clarence Brown, king of the “house” helmers.