UPON FURTHER REVIEW: IT HAPPENED IN FLATBUSH—cinematically and literally :>) By Brad Eastland, the Sports Philosopher & Dr. of Ancient Filmology, Af.D.

November 14, 2010
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      Call it two columns in one.  

      Or two columns for the price of one.  

      Or too lazy to do two columns instead of one.image0011

      What I call it is the marriage of my two favorite mediums of Entertainment; sports and old movies.   More accurately, baseball and old movies.

      I love movies about baseball.   Every time I see one it reminds me of who I am and of who we are as a nation.   Nothing is more deeply rooted in the hardscrabble soil of our national heritage than The Grand Old Game.   So important was it that the roots of baseball be properly mythologized in this country, that over a hundred years ago the powers-that-be concocted a ridiculous canard whereby the invention of the game was suddenly (and fifty years after-the-fact, mind you) credited to a noble and distinguished Civil War General (Abner Doubleday), even though Abner had about as much to do with inventing baseball as Al Gore had to do with inventing the Internet.

      Anyway, no matter how hokey a baseball movie is, I can always pull something worthwhile out of it.   Such is the case with today’s sappy selection, “It Happened in Flatbush”. 

      It Happened in Flatbush” was made in 1942, and stars Lloyd Nolan (“Guadalcanal Diary”, “Peyton Place”, “Airport”) doing two things I had never seen Lloyd do; play the lead, and play a romantic lead.   A fine actor and watchable personality, he is terrific as always.   He plays a former big-league baseball player who is suddenly given the job as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, by the Dodgers’ irascible Irish owner, this fat wonderful old lady who promptly dies.   This puts Lloyd in a tough spot.   As a player he had earned the unfortunate moniker “butterfingers” due to his making an error that once cost Brooklyn a pennant.   Now he has the double-tough job of bringing a pennant to Brooklyn as their manager and winning over all the skeptical Dodger fans, but suddenly without the support of the wacky old biddy who hired him.

      There are three things which, for me, make “It Happened in Flatbush” stand out.   The first one has to do with Lloyd Nolan’s character.   It is clearly based on the famous former Dodgers manager Leo Durocher.   “Leo the lip”, he was called.   He was also called “the all-American out”, by none other than former teammate Babe Ruth, the Babe being humorously contemptuous of Leo’s lack of prowess with the bat.   Nolan’s character is just like Leo; hard headed, fiery of temper, always willing and eager to jaw it out with an umpire.   But also just like Leo, Nolan’s character is a shrewd baseball man, and, also like Leo, Nolan’s character gets Brooklyn that elusive pennant which they had not earned in over 20 years.   Art imitates Life!   For less than one year before “It Happened in Flatbush” was released, the real Brooklyn Dodgers (under Durocher) captured Brooklyn’s first pennant since 1920.   This movie is obviously some misguided Dodger fan’s celebration of that long-awaited 1941 National League flag….


      Also like Durocher, Nolan’s character excels in the romance department.   Nolan successfully woos the socialite owner of the team, played by the much younger Carole Landis, who in Hollywood lore is more famous for committing suicide over her failure to lure Rex Harrison away from his wife than anything she did on screen.   In real life, Leo Durocher was married to the much younger actress Laraine Day.   Cool.

      The second thing significant about this movie is that it renders quite faithfully what was so special about the Brooklyn Dodgers.   That sense of neighborhood, of community.   Perhaps no other professional sports team in American history (with the possible exception of the old Baltimore Colts football team) was as much a part of the day-to-day pulse and routine of the neighborhood it inhabited as was the Brooklyn Dodgers.   The word Flatbush itself actually refers to a neighborhood within Brooklyn, but over the years Flatbush has actually come to mean Brooklyn.   Nolan’s character is depicted in various Brooklynesque scenes doing things like having an ice cream soda and talking baseball with the drug store lunch-counter clerk, and hobnobbing with taxi drivers and paper boys, and using his real name and managerial position to get good tables in local restaurants, and in general trying to make everyone in the neighborhood comfortable with the notion that everyone’s beloved Dodgers were moving in the right direction, competing for that flag.   The line between Art and Life is blurred again.   The Dodgers did give the every-day folks of Brooklyn their identity.   Their pride.   Makes you want to go back in time and move there.

      And finally, the third thing that “It Happened in Flatbush” does for me is remind me that Durocher—after a series of suspensions and disputes with Dodgers management—wound up jumping to the Dodgers’ hated rival, the New York Giants (long before they moved to San Francisco), in 1949.   It was with the Giants that Leo had his greatest managerial successes; like coming from 13-and-a-half games back in 1951 to catch his old team and steal the pennant (thanks to Bobby Thomson’s famous “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” home run), and finally winning his one and only World Series championship as a manager, in 1954.   That 1954 World Series championship was the last Giants World Series championship until….yeah, that’s right, until two weeks ago.

      So for me, the story of Leo Durocher is a metaphor for the triumph of all things Giant over all things Dodger.   In other words, the triumph of good over evil.     

      Some of you who saw my column last week may recall I vowed to stop talking about the Giants for the rest of 2010.   Well, I lied.   It’s too big.   And I’m too happy.   I intend to mention the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants every chance I get.

      But now, back to all things Flatbush.

      Is “It Happened In Flatbush” a great movie?   Certainly not.   Is it even a good movie?   Can’t bring myself to go there either.   But is it a totally and definitively watchable movie?   You bet’cha.

      Nothing like baseball to stir up the blood.  

      You can find “It Happened in Flatbush” on-line if you look hard enough.   Or you can wait for it to show up on TCM or AMC like I did.   But watch it.   It’s 80 minutes well spent.   ###


Brad Eastland, our “Dr. of Ancient Filmology”, is a movie buff and film historian, as long as the film was made before 1985 or so.  (If you want to hear about new-release films, ask somebody else!).   Special effects and gratuitous anything have no place in his celluloid world.   Primarily a fiction writer, Brad has written four novels and over 20 short-stories.  Here are some samples of his best work:


meet….The Sports Philosopher!image003

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and unabashed lover of baseball movies—in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered by clicking the fascinating and comically under-appreciated links below:



2 Responses to “UPON FURTHER REVIEW: IT HAPPENED IN FLATBUSH—cinematically and literally :>) By Brad Eastland, the Sports Philosopher & Dr. of Ancient Filmology, Af.D.”

  1. I, too, enjoy old movies. I saw them in their first run?!?


  2. Thanks for the great description and analysis of IT HAPPENED IN
    FLATBUSH. I remember the movie when I was growing up in
    Brooklyn as a Yankee fan! I loved the movie. What made it so
    memorable for me was that it was shown on “The Million Dollar
    Movie,” which was a program for movies on a local station in NY.
    They would show one move two times a night for a week. And of course
    that was an era when we didn’t have many stations to choose from.
    So having watched IT HAPPENED IN FLATBUSH fourteen times in a row
    made me a lifelong fan of the movie! Haven’t seen it since, but would
    love to if I ever find out where and when it is showing.

    Also, the theme song for The Million Dollar Movie was “Tara’s Theme” from GONE
    WITH THE WIND. As a kid I didn’t know that, so when I saw GONE WITH THE WIND
    for the first time and heard the song, I said to myself, “They’re ripping off Million Dollar Movie.”

    Anyhow, thanks again for reminding me of a long-lost movie from my

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