Angels in the Outfield
Though not the most profitable baseball comedy ever made, Angels in the Outfield is one of the most likeable and enduring. Paul Douglas stars as Guffy McGovern, the combative, foul-mouthed manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. With his team in the basement once more, McGovern has plenty to complain about. All this changes when, while wandering through Forbes Field at night, Guffy is accosted by the voice of the Archangel Gabriel (courtesy of an unbilled James Whitmore). As the spokesman for the Heavenly Choir Nine, a celestial ballclub, Gabriel begins bestowing "miracles" upon the Pirates--but only on the condition that McGovern put a moratorium on swearing and fighting. With the help of the invisible ghosts of past baseball greats, the Pirates make it into the Pennant race. During one crucial game, orphan girl Bridget White (Donna Corcoran) insists that she can see the angels helping out the "live" ballplayers--understandably so, since it was Bridget's prayers that prompted Gabriel to visit McGovern in the first place. Newspaperwoman Jennifer Page (Janet Leigh) transforms Bridget's angelic visions into a nationwide news story, causing no end of trouble for McGovern. When Guffy himself confirms Bridget's claims, he falls right into the hands of vengeful sportscaster Fred Bayles (Keenan Wynn), who's been scheming all along to have McGovern thrown out of baseball. Complication piles upon complication until the Big Game, wherein Guffy is forced to rely exclusively upon the talents of his ballplayers--notably "over the hill" Saul Hellman (Bruce Bennett)--to win the pennant. Unlike the spell-it-all-out 1995 remake of Angels in the Outfield, the original film never shows the angels, permitting the audience to draw its own conclusions regarding Divine Intervention. The film is an unqualified delight, never descending into sloppy sentiment or boggy bathos. Understandably, Angels in the Outfield was Paul Douglas' favorite film (though he'd never admit it after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, hardly Douglas' favorite politician, insisted that it was his favorite as well).