3 June 2014

Gene's proposal for "Take me out to the ballgame"

I have seen quite a few MGM musicals, but "Take me out to the ballgame" (1949) is one that I have yet to see. Directed by Busby Berkeley, this musical stars Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Esther Williams. After his collaboration with Frank Sinatra in the musical "Anchors Aweigh" (1945), Gene Kelly was eager to work with Sinatra again and thought up a story for a new musical with help from Stanley Donen. This story, quite similar to "Anchors Aweigh", was eventually made into "Take me out to the ballgame" after having been sold to MGM for $25,000. Below you'll find Gene Kelly's proposal letter for the film --shown in transcript only-- written to MGM's Roy Myers on 27 July 1946.


July 27, 1946

Mr. Roy Myers
M.C.A. Square
Beverly Hills, California

Dear Roy,

Anent our conversation of last week, I'm putting down on paper, as you asked me to, the general background, environment, and situation ideas of the baseball story that I described to you. I've decided to state here only a few plot ramifications, for until they're written up in detail they won't be as interesting as I'd like them to be on a first reading. However, this will give you a rough idea. To begin with, I tried to think of a story that would do for Sinatra what "Anchor's [sic] Aweigh" did: i.e. to put him in a situation that would make him appear so unequivocally masculine that no male movie-goer could resent him. In "Anchors" this was done well because he was a fighting man in the U.S. navy, and a nice, modest guy. In my story he'll be a helluva 2nd baseman and a nice, modest guy.

Most of it is situation comedy and needs exposition, dialogue, or detailed description for you to get the full flavor. As you know, musical comedy scenes, just like musical numbers, can't be described adequately on paper.

Again, the character of Frankie's love interest is not clearly drawn purposely because her entrance and the details of the gangster's entrance into the plot have only been touched upon. A lot of this is dependent on the girl chosen for Frankie. Personally I feel she should be one with a lot of schmalz. Let it suffice to say that this can all be worked out as the story is worked on in detail. For the same reason, Durante also falls by the wayside. I've only concerned myself at present with the three personalities in "Anchors Aweigh." The obvious substitution, of course, is Durocher for Iturbi.

The gangster business is "old hat", but this kind of stock characterization, I think, is good in musical comedy, because it doesn't worry the audience too much, but gives everybody someone to hiss at. Naturally a million similar gimmicks on which to hang the menace and the trouble could be found. This seems the funniest mainly because of the scene with the lady manager and her ball players raking the bums over, and the laughs that would arise from Sinatra knocking Kelly out and Kelly going after him later.

Anyway, enough of this-- and I think you have what you want. Let me know if it is sufficient.

Best regards,
GENE KELLY

Source: Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

*Note: The role which Gene Kelly suggested Leo Durocher (manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers) should play, was eventually played by Jules Munshin. Betty Garrett was cast as Sinatra's love interest and she would also play his love interest in "On the town", which was released later that same year (directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, and once again starring Kelly and Sinatra).

Publicity still for "Take me out to the ballgame" with Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Gene Kelly, Esther Williams and Betty Garrett.

4 comments:

  1. This is such a neat find! You must see Take Me Out to the Ballgame. It's very good! (I absolutely love all three of Kelly/Sinatra's films!

    I especially love when Gene says "In "Anchors" this was done well because he was a fighting man in the U.S. navy, and a nice, modest guy. In my story he'll be a helluva 2nd baseman and a nice, modest guy."

    Very cool. Thanks so much for sharing! This is the first time I've seen your blog and I can't wait to read more of your posts!

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Yes, I still need to see the film!

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  2. Fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Fascinating indeed to read these original film proposals.

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