The Stratton Story
The Stratton Story isn't a major film in the Jimmy Stewart catalog, but as with most of his screen appearances his mere presence makes it enjoyable and worthwhile. Stewart often blended into roles, making use of his midwestern appeal and tall, lanky frame. Here, that height makes him look every inch a baseball pitcher, just as much as it made him a capable Charles Lindbergh in The Spirit of St. Louis (both Lindbergh and Stratton were well over six feet). Stratton's actual story is less dramatic than the filmed version of his life after losing his leg, he continued working for the White Sox organization as a coach, and he eventually returned to the minor leagues. While the script takes a more dramatic turn after Stratton's accident, it also takes a generous amount of time getting there, allowing us to know Stratton as a young man and rookie ballplayer. Stewart and June Allyson also fill out the proceedings with small, amusing moments in particular their awkward first date, and later when left-footed Monty shows off his dance steps. Baseball fans will appreciate The Stratton Story simply because the game is prominent (even if the crowded stadiums are rear projections), and several well-known players of the day appear in cameos. Fans of the old black-and-whites can enjoy an Old Hollywood romance, with Stewart and Allyson as charming leads. And movie fans will appreciate the fact that, back in the day, movie theaters featured ushers who actually shushed people who made a racket while a classic Clark Gable film was playing. (Query to baseball fans: Would Stratton have played major-league ball again under today's Designated Hitter Rule? Discuss.)
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Warner's DVD release of The Stratton Story, part of the "James Stewart Signature Collection," features a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) from a splendid, trouble-free black-and-white source-print, while the original monaural audio is clear on a DD 1.0 track. Extras include a 1950 Lux Radio Theater dramatization featuring Stewart, as well as the vintage MGM short "Pest Control" (8 min.) and the Tex Avery animation "Batty Baseball" (6 min.). Keep-case.