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Sunday, May 12, 2019

‘The Natural’ at 35: Here’s how Robert Redford hit that explosive home run

Thirty-five years ago, Robert Redford stepped into the batter’s box in a Buffalo stadium, and smashed a home run that immediately entered the Sports Movie Hall of Fame. Held aloft by composer Randy Newman’s soaring score, and director Barry Levinson’s literally explosive imagery, the climactic scene of The Natural is on instant replay in the minds of moviegoers who saw it in theaters on May 11, 1984 or in its three-decade afterlife as a home entertainment and cable staple.

The Natural had a regular place in my family’s VCR in the mid-’80s, and I’d rewind the final scene multiple times in order to watch Redford’s blast shatter the stadium lights, and then take his victory lap through a shower of sparks. I wasn’t what you’d call a die-hard baseball fan, but I loved Richard Donner’s Superman, and that home run is a comic book moment on par with Christopher Reeve reversing the Earth’s rotation. “It’s pretty spectacular,” agrees the film’s producer, Mark Johnson. “And, needless to say, it does not exist in the Bernard Malamud book.”

Yeah, about that book. It’s no secret that if you were keeping score of a movie’s fidelity to its source material, The Natural would finish towards the back the pack. Published in 1952, Malamud’s first novel took its inspiration from various bits of baseball lore, including the shooting of ’40s-era first baseman Eddie Waitkus and the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919. The film version follows the broad strokes of the book charting the journey of Roy Hobbs (Redford), a gifted ballplayer whose career is derailed after he takes a bullet in the gut fired by a female fan.

What, no references to the Fisher King?

QLE Posted: May 12, 2019 at 03:55 AM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: anniversaries, home run, the natural

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   1. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: May 12, 2019 at 07:21 AM (#5841167)
The book Pops Fisher suffers from bad eczema, while the Wilford Brimley's Pops is healthy (not even any diabeetus mentioned in the script). There's still the dry field, the losing streak, and the broken water fountain, but Pops without oozing wounds is no longer the Fisher King.

(Also movie Roy's no longer Perceval, because he asks the right question, as it were, and so attains the Grail.)
   2. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 12, 2019 at 11:16 AM (#5841178)
I once wrote a black parody of Field of Dreams that I guarantee is a hundred times better than that mawky original. It wound up in Comiskey Park in 1933, with a dewy-eyed kid asking Jose Canseco for his autograph, and you can only imagine how sentimental that was.
   3. AndrewJ Posted: May 12, 2019 at 05:36 PM (#5841252)
Wilford Brimley was 49 years old when he appeared in The Natural.
   4. Adam Starblind Posted: May 12, 2019 at 08:34 PM (#5841313)
Wilford Brimley was 49 years old when he appeared in The Natural.


After 9/11 they changed his official age to 51.
   5. Rally Posted: May 13, 2019 at 09:48 AM (#5841430)
Brimley was/is only 2 years older than his rookie right fielder.

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