Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Headin' Home (1920).

The Scoop:
Terrific vintage baseball footage highlights this film, which was designed as a vehicle to showcase the New York Yankees' newest slugger, Babe Ruth.

Ruth was the first great media superstar in the world of sports, becoming a household name as much for his appetites (for food, booze and women, not necessarily in that order) as for the way he single-handedly changed the face of baseball. And "Headin' Home" marked the start of this. It was his film debut (he plays himself, a role he would return to often) and purports to tell the story of his rise from a mispent youth in Haverlock, Maryland, to the baseball superstardom.

The scenes that bookend the movie are authentic, shot at actual Yankees games in the old Polo Grounds (their home before Yankee Stadium opened) and are a real treat for fans of baseball history.

Of course, the story that comes in between is more fanciful than factual. We're treated to scenes of Ruth carving his own bats from trees he chopped down, saving little girls' beloved pets from the evil dogcatcher, and rescuing damsels in distress. But the film catches him at his youthful best -- slim and full of energy, not the broken down older Babe we would see is his later, better known films and newsreel footage.

However, through all the trite silent comedy shenanigans and slow second half, Ruth's larger-than-life personality shines through and it is that, along with the game footage, that makes "Headin' Home" worth a look.

Best Bit:
The dog-in-the-meat-grinder dream sequence. Eep!

Side Note:
The Babe's love interest is played by Ruth Taylor, who would later become the mother of writer/comedian/actor Buck Henry.

Companion Viewing:
"The Babe Ruth Story" (1948) and "The Natural" (1984).

Silents are Golden.

Take a Look:
This clip strings together scenes from several silent baseball films, but the first features the Babe hitting his big home run in "Headin' Home":

The full film is available at the Internet Archive.

And, just for fun, here's the 1932 short "Fancy Curves," in which Babe tries to coach up a women's baseball team:

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