The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings Movie Poster Image
Overlooked baseball gem for the whole family.
  • PG
  • 1976
  • 110 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

An accurate account of segregation and racial animosity in the late '30s. Loyalty is portrayed as a noble ideal. The sexual proclivities of the players are depicted with a "boys will be boys" attitude. One player hires a prostitute. Though the movie handles race issues responsibly, parents should be aware that strong racial epithets are used, often by the black players themselves.

Violence

Minor fistfights. A player is slashed with a razor blade off-screen.

Sex

Several of the ballplayers are seen in bed with women, but little is actually shown.

Language

Moderate.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The players smoke, drink, and carouse.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this overlooked movies of the '70s has great baseball sequences and a festive attitude. But it is less than admirable in the way it treats women, who are portrayed as objects of sexual conquest. Older kids will be entertained, but parents should determine if the material is appropriate for their child, given the sex, drinking and mature themes involved. Teens will like the players' antics and find the historical content interesting.

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What's the story?

Bingo Long (Billy Dee Williams) puts together a motley team of ballplayers, including Leon (James Earl Jones), the best hitter in the Negro National League. The team called the All-Stars, breaks from the league, undertaking a high-spirited tour of rural America. When the Negro National League shuts them out, they challenge white teams and rely on humor to weather the tense race relations of the 30s. The All-Stars' diverting brand of baseball entertains crowds but infuriates League owners. Fed up, the owners rough up a player. The medical costs bankrupt the team. Bingo agrees to a showdown between the All-Stars and a select group from the Negro National League. Despite the bosses' best effort to fix the game, the All-Stars pull out a thrilling win. One of Bingo's players even gets invited to sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers, signaling the end of the Negro National League.

Is it any good?

Billy Dee Williams is particularly good as a showman with the heart of a unionist who believes workers should seize the means of production and share profits. James Earl Jones is also rock-solid as the group's moral conscience, and Richard Pryor is hilarious as a black man masquerading as a "Cuban" (later a Native American) so he can make it into the white leagues -- and with white women.

Of course, a story about the Negro National League must confront the issue of race. The movie uses a light touch. For example, there are vast differences in the pre-game festivities of a black crowd and the more formal good-time efforts of the white folks. The film also captures the changing face of baseball. Bingo knows that the Negro National League --and his career in baseball -- is coming to an end. Though change is bittersweet, Bingo and Leon manage to find humor in it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the treatment of disempowered people has changed since the 1930s -- women and people of color -- and how it's still the same. Are women and African-Americans treated as equals now? Why or why not?

Movie details

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