Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tennis, anyone

This evening (US time) sees the start of the first of the four "Grand Slam" tournaments on the professional tennis calendar, the Australian Open. Tennis never made quite as much of an appearance in Hollywood movies as some other sports, and when it does, it's usually pretty dodgy in quality.

Several professionals show up in Pat and Mike. Katharine Hepburn is expected to play at their level. Fat chance of that happening.

As I mentioned in my post on Pat and Mike, you might find the best portrayal of women's sports -- specifically, women's (amateur) tennis -- in another early 1950s movie, Hard, Fast, and Beautiful. Sadly, though, it's not available on DVD. What we know today as the "Grand Slam" tournaments were strictly for amateurs at that time (they only became professional in the late 1960s), and as a result, Hard, Fast, and Beautfiul also deals with the question of making money of of playing tennis.

Another Grand Slam tennis player is Farley Granger in Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. Again, the tennis isn't all that good, and Granger's character being a tennis player isn't that important to the plot. He could have been any sort of athlete. However, there's an interesting bit in the tennis match scene from a historical perspective. Granger's match reaches six games all in the fourth set, and continues, until Granger wins something like ten games to eight. It was the norm for tennis matches at the time for sets to continue until one player led by two game. Now, almost all sets are decided at six games all by the a first to seven points tiebreak (although again, you have to win by at least two points). This was only introduced at the Grand Slam events in 1970. So, a key plot element -- that Granger's tennis match could have kept going on almost indefinitely -- has since been obviated by the march of time,

Perhaps, then, I should have talked about the Hollywood studio system's treatment of Australia instead of its look at tennis. Of course, it's not as though Hollywood got Australia right, either.

1 comment:

SteveGTennis said...

Tennis is one of those sports that just doesn't work in a feature film, unless it's something that the characters are doing in the background. Look at that awful Wimbledon film with Kirsten Dunst if you don't believe me!