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Busby Berkeley
Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Esther Williams
Writing Credits:
Harry Tugend, George Wells

Two turn-of-the-century baseball players run into trouble with their team's new female owner and a gambler who doesn't want them to win the pennant.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 7/20/2021

• Deleted Musical Numbers
The Cat and the Mermouse Short
• Trailer


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Take Me Out to the Ball Game [Blu-Ray] (1949)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 12, 2021)

Warner Archive releases boast a commitment to original movie poster art. I admire that, especially when it means we get unfortunately dated promo lines such as “MGM’s Gay Technicolor Musical!”

That accompanies 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ballgame, a star-studded effort. Set in the early 1900s, the movie introduces us to Dennis Ryan (Frank Sinatra) and Eddie O’Brien (Gene Kelly).

During the colder months, Dennis and Eddie work as vaudeville stage performers. When the weather turns warm, however, they play baseball for the championship Chicago Wolves.

When KC Higgins (Esther Williams) inherits ownership of the Wolves, some friction results, but Dennis falls in love with her. Playboy Eddie butts heads with KC but the two show sparks, a factor that aggravates Dennis – who also deals with the infatuation of baseball fan Shirley Delwyn (Betty Garrett).

Though I knew of Busby Berkeley’s fame as a choreographer, not until Take did I see a film that he directed. A look over his filmography reveals no well-known flicks for which he served as director, so this doesn’t shock me.

I do feel a bit surprised to realize that Kelly and Sinatra only worked on three films together. They first paired for 1945’s Anchors Aweigh and a few months after Take, 1949’s On the Town would become their final co-starring flick.

Aweigh bored me, but given the talent involved, I hoped Take would work better. Alas, it doesn’t, as the movie becomes a bit of a chore to watch.

Much more of a chore than it should given the cast. It astonishes me that legends like Sinatra, Kelly and Williams can’t create anything more interesting than this snoozer.

Though I suspect most of the blame lands on Berkeley. Whatever skills he displayed as a choreographer didn’t carry over to the director’s chair, as he brings little style or panache to Take.

Surprisingly, Berkeley avoids his signature complicated showpiece sequences here. While Take comes with plenty of song/dance numbers, they tend to stick with strangely restrained choreography.

Perhaps this reflected the cast, as Sinatra possessed restricted dancing skills. When Take asks Sinatra and Kelly to hoof together, the former’s limitations become clear, as the more natural and fluid Kelly almost literally dances circles around him.

Still, Take seems oddly devoid of any memorable production numbers. The songs feel forgettable and the dances become bland as well. A number that allows Kelly to perform solo almost kicks to life, but it doesn’t quite get there.

Nothing else about Berkeley’s direction brings flair to the tale. We get stiff camerawork and no sense of fluidity or charisma.

It doesn’t help that Take often feels more like a collection of musical numbers with a rudimentary story wrapped around them. The characters never emerge as intriguing or memorable, and as mentioned, the song/dance pieces feel stilted and mediocre.

Take even barely uses Williams in her natural milieu, as it only tosses out a minor swimming sequence that never utilizes her skills in that regard. With all the talent involved, the movie shows potential, but it turns into a slow-paced dud.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Take Me Out to the Ball Game appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an excellent presentation, especially given the film’s age.

In terms of sharpness, the movie usually demonstrated nice delineation. A few shots seemed just a smidgen soft, but those issues occurred infrequently, so the majority of the flick looked concise and accurate.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and no edge enhancement became apparent. Grain remained appropriate, and no specks, marks or other defects showed up at any time in this fresh presentation.

Colors were strong. I thought flesh tones were a bit on the brown side, but that was a reflection of Technicolor – and too much makeup. Otherwise, the hues tended to be vivid and full.

Blacks seemed deep and dense without too much heaviness. Shadow detail worked similarly well, as dimly-lit shots were appropriately clear and thick. I found little about which to complain here and thought the Blu-ray brought the movie to life in a positive manner.

The DTS-HD MA monaural audio of Take appeared fine for its era. Speech was fine. The lines showed age-related thinness, but they were always perfectly intelligible and without edginess.

Effects became a minor aspect of the track, and they resembled the dialogue. Those elements lacked much depth but they were without notable problems.

Music was acceptable for its age, as the songs and score tended to be a bit tinny. There wasn’t much range to the music, but again, that stemmed from the limitations of the very old source. This became a perfectly adequate mix for its vintage.

Two Deleted Musical Scenes appear on the disc: “Baby Doll” (2:42) and “Boys and Girls Like You and Me” (4:14). “Doll” seems weird and off-putting, while “Boys” feels turgid and dull.

Both became good cuts. I also appreciate that text explains why the scenes failed to make the movie as well as what became of them in the future, as both made it into later projects.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we also get a 1949 animated short called The Cat and the Mermouse. A Tom & Jerry effort, it runs seven minutes, 37 seconds and involves our leads as they tangle on the beach and in the ocean. Like most T&J, it seems more cute than funny, but it comes with some inventive moments.

A flick with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra as the leads starts on third base, but the dull Take Me Out to the Ball Game can’t bring them to home plate. Flat and monotonous, the movie becomes mediocre at best. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals, appropriate audio and minor bonus materials. I wanted to like Take but found myself disenchanted with its execution.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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