Monday, March 24, 2008

March Madness

It only recently dawned on me that the phrase "March Madness" could describe TCM's look at psychiatry in the movies that has been going on all this month. Of course, the phrase "March Madness" is normally used in conjunction with the NCAA college basketball championships that started this past weekend. Basketball hasn't been such a popular subject in the movies, compared to either baseball or football. It's probably got a lot to do with the fact that basketball was invented well after the development of baseball and football, and that it only became popular much later than either of the other two sports. The NCAA basketball championships didn't begin until the 1930s, and the NBA wasn't inaugurated until after World War II. (By the same token, there's relatively little professional football featured in movies from the studio era; college football was much more popular until TV came along and made the NFL popular with the 1958 NFL Championship game.)

But there are a few earlier movies with basketball scenes in them.

  • Angels With Dirty Faces. Pat O'Brien plays a priest who is shown refereeing a particularly violent basketball game with the Dead End Kids; the Dead End Kids don't start playing more by the rules until gangster James Cagney starts knocking them around. (Apparently, the Dead End Kids were generally hell-raisers on the set, until Cagney stepped on the set. When Leo Gorcey got fresh with Cagney for the first time, Cagney responded by decking Gorcey!)

  • The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. Shirely Temple's boyfriend, played by Johnny Sands (at least, he likes her -- she's in love with Cary Grant), is a high-school basketball player whose game goes to pieces because he's not getting any attention from Miss Temple. Note the narrow lane under the basket, the lack of a three-point line, and the incredibly short shorts that were the vogue for basketball players until the University of Michigan's "Fab Five" came along in 1990.

  • The Absent-Minded Professor. Fred MacMurray's invention of "flubber" helps lead his college's basketball team to an improbable victory.

IMDb lists all three movies as being available on DVD.

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