Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Aldrich|
|Produced by||Matthew Rapf|
|Written by||Herbert Baker|
|Based on||story by Lou Morheim|
|Starring||Edward G. Robinson|
|Music by||Alberto Colombo|
|Cinematography||William C. Mellor|
|Edited by||Ben Lewis|
Although this story is fiction, Robinson's character in it, Hans Lobert, was an actual baseball player who played for five Major League Baseball teams and managed the Philadelphia Phillies. Third-billed in the cast, Jeff Richards was a professional ballplayer before he became an actor, and Hall of Fame pitcher Carl Hubbell appears as himself.
"It was not a personal film of my status at the time," said Aldrich later. "I feel the film was good but not indicative of what I wanted to express in the motion picture medium."
John "Hans" Lobert runs a training camp in Florida for baseball's New York Giants. Every year, he evaluates the 18 to- 22-year-old hopefuls to pick the best for a minor league contract. All have dreams and talent, but the elimination whittles them down to a lucky few who will get the $150-a-month contract.
Lobert's niece comes down from the home office in New York and finds herself attracted to one of the players, the tall, quiet Adam Polachuk. Polachuk, the best prospect at third base, is trying to earn a spot on the team without his father knowing about it. His father, who knows nothing about baseball, thinks Adam is attending school. His father finds out about Adam's attempt to make the Giants just before the best of the recruits square off against the Brooklyn Dodgers' rookie squad.
The elder Polachuk is persuaded by manager Lobert to let his son play in the game before taking him home. Polachuk is the star of the game for the Giants both offensively and defensively as the Giants rally to win the game.
- Edward G. Robinson as John B. 'Hans' Lobert
- Vera-Ellen as Christy
- Jeff Richards as Adam Polachuk
- Richard Jaeckel as Bobby Bronson
- William Campbell as Julie Davis
- Carl Hubbell as Himself
- Paul Langton as Brian McLennan
- Lalo Rios as Chuy Aguilar
- Bill Crandall as Tippy Mitchell
- Frank Ferguson as Wally Mitchell
- John McKee as Dale Alexander
- Mario Siletti as Mr. Polachuk
- Al Campanis as Himself
- Bob Trocolor as Himself
- Tony Ravis as Himself
- Robert Calwell as Pomfret
- Donald 'Chippie' Hastings as Little Joe Polachuk
- Bing Russell
- Harv Tomter as Himself (uncredited)
The film was one of a series of low budget films made at MGM. According to Robert Aldrich, Louis B. Mayer "had wanted to put the sons of the guys who helped him form Metro into production work; and they had this thing called the sons of the pioneers... Three or four guys whose fathers had been helpful in first forming Metro."
Mayer left MGM in 1951 but Dore Schary kept alive the idea, in part because of the success of a low budget unit at MGM which he ran in the early 1940s. In January 1952 he announced the formation of a new production unit under the supervision of Charles Schnee. It included several sons of executives who had helped establish MGM, Matthew Raft (son of Harry Rapf), Arthur Loew (son of Marcus Loew), and Sidney Franklin Jnr (son of Sidney Franklin). Other producers were Hayes Goetz, Henry Berman (brother of Pandro S. Berman) and Sol Fielding. The idea was to make ten to fifteen films a year.
Big Leaguer was based on an original story by John McNulty, who sold it to producer Matthew Rapf at MGM.
Herbert Butler wrote a script and in November 1952 MGM announced they would make the film under the Charles Schnee unit. Robinson signed later that month, the first film he had shot at MGM since Our Vines Have Tender Grapes. Filming would not begin until March 1953 to take advantage of spring training.
Robert Aldrich had worked at Enterprise Studios as an assistant director and met Herbert Baker on So This is New York. Baker recommended Aldrich as director because he had worked in television and "knew athletes". "They were looking for "bright young guys" who'd been on the firing line for a while, someone they thought they could give an opportunity to and who knew what he was doing because they didn't," said Aldrich. Aldrich was signed to direct in January 1953.
Jeff Richards, who was cast a baseball player, had been a baseball player in real life.
Aldrich remembered star Edward G. Robinson as "a marvellous actor and a brilliant man but he was not physically co ordinated. He would walk to first base and trip over the home plate."
Aldrich said "The world wasn't waiting for that picture. It was a picture about the New York Giants and Metro had the foresight to open it in Brooklyn, so you can't have expected it to do very well. Nothing much came out of it."
According to MGM records the film earned $467,000 in the US and Canada and $92,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $163,000.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- The figure has also been given as $800,000 - see Alain Silver and James Ursini, Whatever Happened to Robert Aldrich?, Limelight, 1995 p 230
- Aldrich, Robert (2004). Robert Aldrich : interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 12.
- mr. film noir stays at the table Silver, Alain. Film Comment; New York Vol. 8, Iss. 1, (Spring 1972): 14-23.
- Fairbanks Will Make Episode Film; Schary Boosts Young Producers Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]30 Jan 1952: A7.
- JUDGE DISMISSES ACTION BY JARRICO: Rules R. K. O., Hughes Acted Within Rights in Removing Movie Credits From Writer By THOMAS M. PRYORS New York Times27 Nov 1952: 49.
- 'Julius Caesar' Will Miss Next Oscar Derby; 'Big Leaguer' Readying Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 27 Nov 1952: B11.
- 'Andersen' Sets Record Los Angeles Times 7 Jan 1953: B7.
- Looking at Hollywood: Baseball Movie Will Co-Star Jeff Richards and Hubbell Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 15 Jan 1953: b2.
- Beck, Robert. The Edward G. Robinson Encyclopedia. McFarlanddate=2008. p. 44.