" Like a hotdog covered with mustard, Or an amateur hometown play, Like a circus parade or lemonade, It's strictly USA. "
These are the lyrics to just one of the many exuberant songs to be heard in Take Me Out to the Ballgame, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's baseball themed musical of 1948.
Bobby-sox idol Frank Sinatra, and the star of the tap field, Gene Kelly, were a great pair of sailors in Anchor's Aweigh ( 1945 ), and so they teamed up again for this outing ( or should I say "inning"? ) on the baseball diamond, this time donning the knickers and knee-highs of ballplayers. When they aren't leading their team, the Wolves, to victory, they're singing and dancing on stage as vaudevillians. Eddie O'Brien ( Gene Kelly ) feels the greatest thrill when he has an audience to entertain, whereas Denny Ryan ( Frank Sinatra ) finds nothing as absorbing as a baseball game.....that is, until K.C. Higgins ( Esther Williams ), the shapely new manager of the Wolves, comes along and sends his heart flying out of the ballpark.
MGM loaded the bases for Take Me Out to the Ballgame with a stellar cast, gorgeous Technicolor, and memorable songs by Adolph Green/Roger Edens/Betty Comden, but the film fails to make a true home run.
Esther Williams gave an adequate performance as Miss Higgins but she failed to make a splash ( not surprisingly since she didn't have a pool to swim in ). Judy Garland could have done wonders with the part. Also, this project was Busby Berkeley's last full assignment as director and, while he directed it with his customary flair, the script he had to work with could have featured less romance and more baseball fun. However, there are a few curve balls thrown in that give it an added punch ( Kelly does an especially rousing tap sequence to "The Hat Me Dear Old Father Wore" ) and it offers a wonderful foretaste of the fun to be had in On the Town, released just four months later.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame was a box-office success upon its release and it was because it did so well that the big brass at MGM gave Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly the green light for On the Town, Kelly's directorial debut. All three of the Sinatra-Kelly films were made within the "Arthur Freed Unit" at MGM and really showcased the wonderful talent that the studio had during the late 1940s. Helen Rose and Valles created some eye-popping turn-of-the-century costumes and the production design was top-notch.
Also cast in the film were Betty Garrett ( who reprised her man-hungry role in On the Town ), Jules Munshin, Edward Arnold, and Tom Dugan. Keep your eyes peeled for an uncredited appearance by Danny Kaye too, he's reading a newspaper on board the train.