(1949)3Mike CummingsIn this little gem of a comedy, Ray Milland has a ball -- a baseball -- and what he does to it turns the whole sports world topsy-turvy and sets high standards for later sports films about athletes with secret weapons. Milland portrays mild-mannered chemistry professor Vernon Simpson. One day, he accidentally makes a concoction that repels wood. What would happen if he rubbed his brew on a baseball and threw it to a batter? He experiments and discovers that a treated ball dips under or vaults over swinging bats. In a scene foreshadowing Roy Hobbs' batting tryout in The Natural, Simpson tries out as a pitcher for a major-league team of smirking skeptics. But nobody can hit him. Simpson then becomes King Kelly, the unhittable pitcher, carrying his team to victory after victory. What is so good about this film is that it keeps its tongue in its cheek, allowing the clever script, special effects, straight-faced acting, and goofy scenarios to work their magic. In one hilarious scene, catcher Monk Lanigan (Paul Douglas) mistakes the wood repellant for hair cream, rubs some on, and tries to coif himself with a wooden comb. Walt Disney's Flubber, good as it is, cannot match It Happens Every Spring for wacky creativity and low-key humor. The film earned an Academy award nomination for its script, then disappeared into the limbo of unpublicized films. Giving strong performances in supporting roles are Jean Peters as Milland's fianceé, Ed Begley as the team owner, and Ted de Corsia as the team manager. The final scene of the film is delightful: In the most crucial game of the year, Simpson/King Kelly runs out of his chemical concoction. He must pitch on his own, creating his own leaping fast balls. Who wins? The audience, of course. It Happens Every Spring is one of the finest sports films ever made -- in a quiet, unassuming way.
Lloyd Bacon's baseball comedy stars Ray Milland as Vernon Simpson, a chemist who develops a product which repels wood. Signing on with a major league team as a pitcher, he throws screwballs doctored with his solution, becoming a sensation who strikes out every batter he faces.