Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Death on the Diamond (1934)



There are two things America seems to be obsessed with sports wise and books wise: baseball and murder mysteries. Baseball is like a drama every year. I can personally say that for me and my family we get our hopes up for the Mets and then they always let us down and we stop watching them play before the middle of the season. Most of the TV shows we watch in my house are all three CSIs, NCIS, Castle, and The Mentalist. I work in a library in a town where there is a large senior citizen population (seriously if you guys think that Florida as a whole is God’s Waiting Room, come to the Manchester/Lakewood/Toms River area of NJ) and all they seem to read are mysteries.
            Apparently MGM even in the 1930s knew the two things America was obsessed with and tried to combine the two into a film. I guess the 1934 film Death on the Diamond seemed like a good idea on paper but in reality it did not work out as well as the studio would have hoped.
            Pop Clark is the coach for the Cardinals. Newspapers do not think Pop’s Cardinals are any good. Larry Kelly (Robert Young) is a new player for the team. He meets Frances (Madge Evans) at the office when he first comes to the team. Frances’s father is Pop Clark. Larry finds out that if the team does not win the year Pop will be forced to sell the team. That night Larry goes out with a millionaire named Joe McAvoy. A reporter tells Larry that Joe is a gambler.
            A boy in the clubhouse finds someone sneaking around. The players find the gloves have been tampered with an alcohol that would burn their hands when they got hot.
            With Larry’s help the Cardinals move to second place. McAvoy is not happy he is losing money with every win the Cards make. He tries to bribe Larry to lose with ten thousand dollars. The team runs the bribe story in the newspaper to let McAvoy know they are not going to be bribed to lose. After the story is printed Larry has a perfect game. In anger McAvoy tries to have Larry killed. All Larry gets is a hurt ankle.
            In an important game a player is shot and killed on the field. The police think Larry did it because he was away from the field and he and the player had an argument over wanting to take Frances out if they won the game.
            A reporter asks the head detective to let him run a story before the other papers. He suspects McAvoy and goes to talk to him.
            The next game Hogan, the catcher, tells the pitcher Higgins he has a phone call. Higgins goes to the phone in the locker room. When the game starts no one can find Higgins. Pop, Frances, Larry, and the reporter go looking for him. They find Higgins dead stuffed in his locker.
            Hogan and the Cardinals win the game. Hogan and the umpire are always fighting over calls. The umpire decides to buy Hogan a hot dog after the game. Someone poisons the mustard Hogan spreads on his hot dog. He becomes another victim shortly afterwards. The umpire is upset about Hogan even though they always argued over the calls and drove each other, they were just having fun.
            Despite everything that is happening to the team Pop decides to play the next game. Frances does not want Larry to pitch in case he is the next target. Pop knows Frances still loves Larry. The reporter tells the three of them that Larry needs to pitch to get the murderer and Larry agrees. The game does not start off too well. They are all nervous. While he is pitching Larry sees someone in the dugout put something in his coat pocket. He throws the ball and hits a guy out. Turns out he hit the murderer who happened to be the groundskeeper. A long time ago he had been kicked out of baseball and he wanted Pop’s team to do badly. The reporter realized the groundskeeper was the murderer after Hogan keeled over and the keeper looked relived when Hogan could not point him out.
            The cast was good. Robert Young is adorable. I have seen him in quite a few films now and I like him more and more with each film. Madge Evans was a good actress and in the few films I have seen her in I wish she had done more or was a little more popular. The girl had talent but it seemed like MGM did not know what to do with her or they did not see her potential and just casted her in remedial roles. I feel that is the same thing with Young although he was in some good movies and played the lead in bigger films. Nat Pendleton played Hogan. I love seeing him in films he will always be Detective Guild from The Thin Man to me.  He was very funny as Hogan.
            Death on the Diamond seemed like it had good intentions mixing two popular American pastimes but it fell short and the story comes off a bit silly. I was not bored with the film it was interesting to see baseball and murder mystery working together and the cast kept my interest. It really was a whodunit and it left me guess until the end. Despite the not so great story I still recommend seeing Death on the Diamond if TCM ever airs it again.