Wednesday, January 5, 2011

1962 - FLASHING SPIKES, John Ford's TV film about baseball will not be confused with "The Searchers"

As old Hollywood tried to figure out the new phenomena of TV, veteran filmmakers would occasionally take a shot at working in the new medium.  John Ford filmed a baseball story Flashing Spikes, about an up and coming young ballplayer he strikes up a friendship with a disgraced former ball player which almost costs him his career. 

Working in television required everyone to work fast.  Motion picture directors didn't have the luxury of setting up elaborate camera shots with special lighting and angles.  Ford pretty much tells a straight on story with few embellishments.

For the lead, Ford used John Wayne's son Patrick, and probably called in a few favors to get James Stewart to play the disgraced ballplayer along with John Wayne in a small role as an umpire.  As usual Ford loaded up his cast with his "stock company," actors he repeatedly used over and over who he liked working with. 

Flashing Spikes is fun to watch although its not much of a film.  The story is told episodically in flashbacks and the climax of the story with the vindication of the old ballplayer is sloppily handled.  Patrick Wayne has a limited range as a performer, especially when he works besides his old man and James Stewart.  His lack of experience really shows throughout the picture. 

Ford with Stewart and Wayne on the set of "Liberty Valance"

This is a very minor film in the career of John Ford.  No undiscovered masterpiece but not bad.

53 minutes.

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