Angels in the Outfield (1951)

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Angels in the Outfield (1951) Movie Poster Image
Cute baseball fantasy overshadowed by remake.
  • NR
  • 1951
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie is about the spiritual redemption of Guffy McGovern, who goes from a profane brawler and alienated bachelor to more or less a gentleman, suitor, and even adoptive father. In one scene two Christian priests and a rabbi provide a united front in his defense. There' s some '50s-style stereotyping of women, in the prissy heroine. And in keeping with the pre-Jackie Robinson MLB, all the players are white.

Violence & Scariness

A few punches thrown.

Sexy Stuff
Language

While McGovern swears a blue streak, his words are amusingly scrambled on the soundtrack into unintelligible babble.

Consumerism

Plugs for the real-life Pittsburgh Pirates and baseball are pretty inescapable.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is a main character notorious for his brawling and profanity; the filmmakers under the old studio censorship code got around that by having his "filthy" tirades scrambled by the sound effects department into a mushy babble. You can't make out a word. It's actually pretty funny, maybe more so than hearing the real obscenities. Also know that this is not the 1994 Disney remake of the baseball comedy filled with ethereal special effects, but rather the less fancy original black-and-white version, which leaves the angels invisible throughout.

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What's the story?

This whimsical sports comedy-fantasy follows the Pittsburgh Pirates, led by ornery team manager Aloysius "Guffy" McGovern (Paul Douglas), who argues vehemently with umpires and occasionally punches out sports writers. In a surprise move, the local newspaper's household-hints reporter Jennifer (Janet Leigh) is assigned to cover the sports beat "from a woman's angle." She's disgusted by McGovern's tirades on the field, and she's not alone. With his team on a losing streak, McGovern gets a scolding from a critic he can't hit: a stern, disembodied voice that says it's an angel and reveals the miraculous story of the Heavenly Choir, who will help the team in the outfield as long as McGovern behaves decently. McGovern shapes up and even starts dating Jennifer. But when a little girl says she can actually see the Heavenly Choir, the secret leaks out. All baseball questions McGovern's sanity, and a montage of real-life ball-game greats, from Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb to club owner and entertainer Bing Crosby, weigh in.

Is it any good?

Angels in the Outfield is a lot of fun, if you don't mind old-fashioned attitudes and black-and-white stock footage of baseball games. It gently slides into a case of ethical Christianity and persecution, as the hot-headed McGovern strains to remain meek even when pushed to the breaking point. There's also a rarely-seen-anymore religious angle, wherein an ecumenical trio of a minister, a priest, and a rabbi all unite for a resounding defense of the biblical existence of angels.

Under the old studio-censorship code, McGovern's horrific swearing couldn't be allowed to be heard; thus a Hollywood sound-effects department scrambled actor Paul Douglas' ravings into an unintelligible babble that's pretty funny. Note that no angels are actually shown; viewers are left to their own imaginations. Disney's big-budget 1994 remake () has special-effects jazz and some PG-level salty language, but you still might want to get kids to sit still with the original. Ask which version they like better and why.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the spiritual component in the movie, and how the film illustrates Christian themes and morality; it's not just all about the team winning their games if the manager does what the angels tell him to. What would you have done in Guffy's shoes? You could also talk about the great players of yesteryear who make appearances, or are referred to. Why do you think President Eisenhower in particular listed this movie as a favorite?

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