Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TCM Star of the Month: Mickey Rooney

Now that we're in a new month, we have a new Star of the Month on TCM: Mickey Rooney. Rooney made so many movies that TCM is devoting not just prime time, but 24 hours a day every Thursday in December to Rooney's movies. This first Thursday in November brings us a lot of the movies Rooney made before he started to become a star with the Andy Hardy movies. Two of these smaller appearances that I have previously recommended are in the wonderful Hide-Out (2:15 PM ET tomorrow), followed at 3:45 PM by Rooney playing the young Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama. One of Rooney's appearances that I don't think I've recommended before is in Death on the Diamond, which airs at 1:00 PM tomorrow.

The title sounds as though it's a baseball-themed movie, and indeed it is. Mickey Rooney plays the ballboy for the St. Louis Cardinals, which in this movie are owned and managed by a man who is heavily in debt. In fact, the owner-manager is going to lose his team if they can't win the pennant. So, in order to win, the manager hires the best pitcher available, played by Robert Young.

Young's presence on the team has two effects. First, he falls in love with the manager's secretary and Girl Friday (played by Madge Evans), who also happens to be his daughter. Second, Young turns the team's fortunes around enough that it attracts dark betting interests who are presumably acting on behalf of those who would like to take the team away from its manager. To that effect, they begin to kill members of the team! So, not only do we get a baseball movie, we get a nice mid-1930s mystery yarn as well. It's nowhere near as good as, say, The Thin Man, but at about 70 minutes, it'll do.

Speaking of The Thin Man, Nat Pendleton (who was the police detective in that movie) shows up hear as the Cardinals' catcher, who has a running argument with an umpire, who just happens to be behind the plate for every one of the Cardinals' games. That umpire is played by Ted Healy, the man who originally discovered the Three Stooges. It's obscure enough that it's not available on DVD, so you'll have to catch the TCM airing.

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