Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ron Shelton|
|Produced by||David V. Lester
|Written by||Al Stump (book and article)
Ron Shelton (screenplay)
|Starring||Tommy Lee Jones
|Music by||Elliot Goldenthal|
|Edited by||Kimberly Ray
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|December 2, 1994|
Cobb is a 1994 biopic starring Tommy Lee Jones as the famed baseball player Ty Cobb. It was written and directed by Ron Shelton and was based on a book by Al Stump. The original music score was composed by Elliot Goldenthal.
Sportswriter Al Stump is hired in 1960 as ghostwriter of an authorized autobiography of baseball player Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb. Now 73 and in failing health, Cobb wants an official biography to "set the record straight" before he dies.
Stump arrives at Cobb's Lake Tahoe estate to write the official life story of the first baseball player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He finds a continually-drunken, misanthropic, bitter racist who abuses his biographer as well as everyone else he comes in contact with. Although Cobb's home is luxurious, it is without heat, power and running water due to long-running violent disputes between Cobb and utility companies. Cobb also rapidly runs through domestic workers, hiring and firing them in quick succession.
Although Cobb is seriously ill and prone to frequent physical breakdown, he retains considerable strength and also keeps several loaded firearms within easy reach at almost all times, making the outbreak of violent confrontation always an immediate possibility in his presence.
Cobb almost gets killed in an automobile accident off the Donner Pass, therefore causing Stump to rescue him, however, Cobb takes control of Stump's car until he gets into another accident. The car gets towed to Reno.
While in Reno, Stump and Cobb see a show featuring Keely Smith and Louis Prima. Meanwhile, Ramona, a girl who hands out cigarettes at the casino, becomes interested in Stump. However, when Cobb enters the hotel room, he's in a jealous rage, seeing Stump and Ramona dancing and making love and takes Ramona to another room of the hotel, where he physically abuses her.
Cobb and Stump eventually decide to travel together cross-country to the Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, New York, where many players from Cobb's era attend, and then on to Cobb's native Georgia, where his estranged daughter continues to live. After spending a few months with Cobb and absorbing considerable abuse, Stump is torn between creating the autobiography that Cobb hired him to write and writing his own book on Cobb. Cobb begins to regard Stump as a friend of sorts; it is clear his conduct has driven away virtually all his legitimate friends and family.
Stump writes two books simultaneously: the autobiography Cobb expects, and his own, sensational, merciless account which will reveal the true Cobb, warts and all. Stump plans to complete Cobb's version while the old man is still alive, guaranteeing his payment for the autobiography project, letting Cobb die happy, and then issue the hard-hitting followup after Cobb dies. After a long night contending with the raging Cobb, Stump passes out and Cobb discovers his notes for his no-punches-pulled version, bringing on an epic explosion.
After Cobb dies, Stump gains a grudging respect for the player's legendary intensity and fearsome competitive fire, and an understanding that the murder of Cobb's father may have been partly responsible for his antagonistic personality. Stump is conflicted in his opinion of Cobb: whether respect for his accomplishments outweighs his repellent personal conduct. In the end, Stump decides not to destroy his autobiography of Cobb's life out of respect for Cobb's memory, his belief in redemption and because he was paid to write it.
- Tommy Lee Jones as Ty Cobb
- Robert Wuhl as Al Stump
- Lolita Davidovich as Ramona
- Lou Myers as Willie
- William Utay as Jameson
- J. Kenneth Campbell as William Herschel Cobb
- Rhoda Griffis as Amanda Chitwood Cobb
- Roger Clemens as Opposing pitcher
- Stephen Mendillo as Mickey Cochrane
- Tommy Bush as Rogers Hornsby
- Stacy Keach, Sr. as Jimmie Foxx
- Crash Davis as Sam Crawford
- Rath Shelton as Paul Waner
- Jim Shelton as Lloyd Waner
- Reid Cruickshanks as Pie Traynor
- Eloy Casados as Louis Prima
- Paula Rudy as Keely Smith
- Bradley Whitford as Process Server
- Brian Patrick Mulligan as Charlie Chaplin
- Jimmy Buffett as Heckler
Baseball scenes were filmed at Birmingham's Rickwood Field, which stood in for Philadelphia's Shibe Park and Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. Scenes also were filmed in Cobb's actual hometown of Royston, Georgia.
Much of the Cobb location filming was done in Northern Nevada. The hotel check-in was at the Morris Hotel on Fourth Street in Reno. Casino, outdoor and entry shots were done outside Cactus Jack's Hotel and Casino in Carson City and outside the then-closed, now-reopened (2007) Doppelganger's Bar in Carson City.
The late baseball announcer Ernie Harwell, a member of the Hall of Fame, is featured as emcee at a Cooperstown, New York awards banquet. Real-life sportswriters Allan Malamud, Doug Krikorian, and Jeff Fellenzer and boxing publicist Bill Caplan appear in the movie's opening and closing scenes at a Santa Barbara bar as Stump's friends and fellow scribes. Carson City free-lance photographer Bob Wilkie photographed many still scenes for Nevada Magazine, the Associated Press, and the Nevada Appeal.
Tommy Lee Jones was shooting this film when he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Fugitive. Since his head was partially shaved in the front for his role as the balding, 72 year old Cobb, the actor made light of the situation in his acceptance speech: "All a man can say at a time like this is, 'I am not really bald,'" Jones said. He added, "But I do have work." In addition to his partially shaved head, Jones also endured a broken ankle, suffered while practicing Cobb's distinctive slide.
The film shows Cobb sharpening his spikes as a means to keep infielders from tagging him out as he ran the bases, and was accused of spiking several players who tried. Cobb, however, always denied ever spiking anyone on purpose.
Tyler Logan Cobb, a descendant of Cobb's, played "Young Ty."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone hailed it as "one of the year's best" and Charles Taylor of Salon included it on his list of the best films of the decade. Others took a harsher view of the picture. Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a 'D', claiming it to be a "noisy, cantankerous buddy picture" and presented Cobb as little more than a "septuagenarian crank." He noted that while the film had constant reminders of Cobb's records, it had little actual baseball in it, besides one flashback where Cobb is seen getting on base, then stealing third and home, and instigating a brawl with the opposing team. He explained: "By refusing to place before our eyes Ty Cobb's haunted ferocity as a baseball player, it succeeds in making him look even worse than he was." Cobb currently has a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 42 reviews.
The film opened in limited release in December 1994. It earned a reported $1,007,583 at the U.S. box office.
- Wells, Jeffrey (April 8, 1994). "Tommy Boy". Entertainment Weekly.
- Cobb at the Internet Movie Database
- Cobb at AllMovie
- Cobb at Box Office Mojo
- Cobb at Rotten Tomatoes