Baseball Films Of The Silent Era 1899 - 1926 DVD
SKU ID #325714
Reel Baseball is an outstanding collection from Kino of baseball-themed films from the silent era of American cinema. The two-disc set is anchored by an unexpected and enjoyable 1920 feature, "Headin' Home," starring a boyish and slender Babe Ruth in a silly but vibrant piece of fiction about the roots of the legendary player. Portrayed as a hayseed essentially waiting to be discovered, Ruth never looked or performed (as an actor) better than in this expertly paced farce. He re-tools his own legend, playing some version of himself as a rough diamond recruited into playing against his own hometown team and doing well enough to be nearly lynched. The other long production here is the ambitious "The Busher," from 1919, starring Charles Ray as another rural talent fetched up by a visiting team and spat out when he can’t get his head in a big league game. Roaming anonymously in the aftermath of his failure, Ray’s character comes home ragged and beaten, but baseball has a way of extending opportunities for redemption. Elsewhere in the collection are a number of short pieces, some of them fragments or excerpts, others complete. Among the highlights is a wonderful Felix the Cat cartoon, "Felix Saves the Day," a funny, mixed-media work in which the darkly mischievous Felix proves an adept pitcher and hitter in street games, then loses a valuable teammate when the latter is thrown in jail. For all its relative simplicity, there are some surprising and delightful moments, including a hilarious chase scene in which animated characters are running amok over real-world buildings somehow excerpted from a photograph. "Kinogram" is a one-minute, undated strip of footage of Ruth in his Yankees uniform. "His Last Game" is an amusing if somewhat tawdry comedy from 1909, about an Indian pitcher trying to resist the temptations of demon alcohol, bribes, and gambling prior to a big game. "The Ball Player and the Bandit," from 1912, is directed by Francis Ford and is a slightly convoluted tale about a ball player who refuses to carry a gun while working as a paymaster out west. The oldest film segment here, the 1899 "Casey at the Bat or The Fate of a ‘Rotten’ Umpire," is a fascinating few seconds of a home plate brawl from a larger project. Another "Casey at the Bat," from 1922, is simply a showcase for actor De Wolf Hopper to recite—as he did for years—the famous, eponymous poem. Finally, "Butter Fingers" is an irresistible, Mack Sennett comedy starring Billy Bevan as a loutish pitcher with some magic hands but bad judgement when it comes to wooing the ladies.