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Celebrated film director Frank Capra was a central architect of the "feel good" movie genre now known as populism, which celebrates people, families, second chances, and other traditional American icons such as small town or pastoral life and baseball. Capra developed his own brand of populism by interweaving traditional values of the genre with a younger, more vulnerable hero starting with Mr. Deeds Goes to Town in 1936. The result, Capraesque populism, has had a significant influence on American pop culture in general and forms a small but important subgenre of baseball movie.
This book examines eight of these Capraesque baseball films, starting with the all-important Pride of the Yankees (1942), which one admiring critic has called "Mr. Deeds Goes to Yankee Stadium." An introduction provides an overview of baseball and populism. Individual chapters are devoted to the populist legacy from Will Rogers (Capra's mentor) to Capra, The Pride of the Yankees, The Stratton Story, Angels in the Outfield, The Natural, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Frequency and The Rookie.
Wes D. Gehring is a professor of film at Ball State University and an associate media editor for USA Today magazine, for which he also writes the column "Reel World." He is the author of 20 film related books, including Populism and the Capra Legacy.
|Author's Notes and Acknowledgments||13|
|Preface: Populism as a Mirror of Our Best Self||15|
|Introduction: A Baseball and Populism Primer||21|
|First Inning||Passing the Populist Legacy from Wil Rogers to Frank Capra||35|
|Second Inning||The Pridee of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig||49|
|Third Inning||The Stratton Story: Close Parallels to Gehrig's Pride||66|
|Fourth Inning||Angels in the Outfield: A Populist Fantasy||78|
|Fifth Inning||The Natural: A Populist Adaptation of a Literary Classic||90|
|Sixth Inning||Bull Durham: A Sexy Packaging of Populism||104|
|Seventh Inning||Field of Dreams: America's Favorite Baseball Film||115|
|Eighth Inning||Frequency: An Unconventional Showcasing of Populist Baseball||126|
|Ninth Inning||The Rookie: Back to Populist Biography with a Cinderella Story||135|
Posted April 29, 2014
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“Who’s who in America” (2012, 2013, 2014) author Wes Gehring’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to America: Baseball Films in the Capra Tradition” is included in baseball expert Ron Kaplan’s “501 Baseball Books Fans Must READ Before They Die.” Gehring’s book also boasts “Forwards” by “Boys of Summer” legend Carl Erskine, and former “Good Morning America” anchor Steve Bell. Erskine says, in part, “Wes Gehring’s book catches this (historical baseball) linkage in a fascinating way and lets younger generations live a little of the past while allowing my generation to live it again---read on.” Bell adds, in part, “What Wes Gehring puts in perspective for us in this delightful and insightful book is the essence of the (Capra feel good) Populist era and the mindset that helped mold our national character.” Thus, the book comes highly recommended.