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All-Stars and Movie Stars

All-Stars and Movie Stars: Sports in Film and History

Ron Briley
Michael K. Schoenecke
Deborah A. Carmichael
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    All-Stars and Movie Stars
    Book Description:

    Sports films are popular forms of entertainment around the world, but beyond simply amusing audiences, they also reveal much about class, race, gender, sexuality, and national identity. InAll-Stars and Movie Stars, Ron Briley, Michael K. Schoenecke, and Deborah A. Carmichael explore the interplay between sports films and critical aspects of our culture, examining them as both historical artifacts and building blocks of ideologies, values, and stereotypes.

    The book covers not only Hollywood hits such asField of DreamsandMiraclebut also documentaries such asThe Journey of the African American Athleteand international cinema, such as the German filmThe Miracle of Bern. The book also explores television coverage of sports, commenting on the relationship of media to golf and offering a new perspective on the culture and politics behind the depictions of the world's most popular pastimes.

    The first part of the book addresses how sports films represent the cultural events, patterns, and movements of the times in which they were set, as well as the effect of the media and athletic industry on the athletes themselves. Latham Hunter examines how the baseball classicThe Naturalreflects traditional ideas about gender, heroism, and nation, and Harper Cossar addresses how the production methods used in televised golf affect viewers. The second section deals with issues such as the growth of women's involvement in athletics, sexual preference in the sports world, and the ever-present question of race by looking at sports classics such asRocky, Hoosiers,andA League of Their Own.

    Finally, the authors address the historical and present-day role sports play in the international and political arena by examining such films asVisions of EightandThe Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. This important and unique collection illuminates the prominent role that sports play in society and how that role is reflected in film. Analysis of the depiction of sports in film and television provides a deeper understanding of the appeal that sports hold for people worldwide and of the forces behind the historic and cultural traditions linked to sports.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5983-6
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-ix)
    Douglas Noverr

    Film and sport were quickly connected in the late 1890s as Thomas Edison introduced one-reelers that capitalized on growing popular interest in baseball. In 1908 the Essanay Company released a one-reeler of World Series highlights, and in 1913 another film production company, Selig Polyscope, distributed four reels of World Series footage. From 1908 to 1920 fans packed movie houses for showings of the visual highlights and plays they had read about or seen in newspaper photographs or illustrations. In 1924, at the same time that baseball films (dramatic and documentary) were becoming popular, the National College Athletics Association declared the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction Sports in Film: Cultural and Historical Representations of Athletic Competition on the Screen
    (pp. 1-14)
    Ron Briley, Michael K. Schoenecke and Deborah A. Carmichael

    Traditionalists often perceive the athletic playing field as a meritocracy in which issues of race, gender, class, and nationality play no role. Films such asMiracle(2004), which focuses on the upset victory of the U.S. hockey team over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic Games, and Ron Howard’sCinderella Man(2005), which chronicles the rags to riches story of heavyweight fighter James Braddock during the 1930s, perpetuate the idea that the athletic world provides a vehicle for social mobility in which hard work will prevail in the best tradition of Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger.

    The authors represented...

  6. Part One: Sport as Cultural Production and Representation

    • Endless Summer: Consuming Waves and Surfing the Frontier
      (pp. 17-39)
      Joan Ormrod

      After world war II, America and the West experienced a consumer boom as a result of greater disposable incomes, advances in technology, and an increase in commodity production. The consumer culture focused in part on the pleasure derived from acquiring goods, and goods came to symbolize lifestyles and identities.¹ The baby boom generation, which was born following the war and became teenaged in the 1950s, was an integral part of the consumer culture. American teenagers numbered ten to fifteen million in the 1950s and had a potential spending power of nine billion dollars.² It is therefore not surprising that this...

    • “I’m Against It!”: The Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers as Cultural Critique; or, Why Big-Time College Football Gives Me a Haddock
      (pp. 40-54)
      Daniel A. Nathan

      Fast-paced and witty, antiauthoritarian and anarchic, the Marx Brothers’Horse Feathers(1932) is a seriously funny film. More than seventy years after it was released, it continues to evoke laughter—not just because it is a timeless “classic” but also because it is still timely. Its objects of ridicule are still with us—academic pretentiousness and inanity, and the hypocrisy and foolishness of institutions of higher education chasing gridiron glory. In other words,Horse Featherswas and is more than “the mere antics of funny men” and “pure clowning,” as one reviewer noted when the film was in theaters.¹ On...

    • Bobby Jones, Golf, and His Instructional Reels
      (pp. 55-63)
      Michael K. Schoenecke

      The 1920s has been called the Golden Age of American Sport; the decade produced some of the most respected, honored, and cherished sports heroes that Americans have ever seen. As veteran sports reporters Allison Danzig and Peter Brandwein noted in 1948, “Never before, nor since, have so many transcendent performers arisen contemporaneously in almost every field of competitive athletics as graced the 1920s” (xi). The major sports heroes of the 1920s became athletic fountainheads: George Herman “Babe” Ruth in baseball, William “Jack” Dempsey in boxing, Harold “Red” Grange in football, William T. “Big Bill” Tilden in tennis, and Robert T....

    • Televised Golf and the Creation of Narrative
      (pp. 64-85)
      Harper Cossar

      Televised golf is among the more dynamic sporting events on television. Compared with arena sports such as football, baseball, hockey, and basketball, golf is difficult to broadcast due to its natural unsuitability to a typical television sports production. Arena sports possess natural boundaries, and the ball cannot stray too far from the field of play. In golf, however, the whereabouts of the ball often is unknown, making the focus of play unpredictable and difficult to produce. Even the best golfers in the world often produce shots that flummox not only the players but also the television production crew.

      Perhaps more...

    • What’s Natural about It?: A Baseball Movie as Introduction to Key Concepts in Cultural Studies
      (pp. 86-102)
      Latham Hunter

      WhenThe Naturalwas released in 1984, critics generally agreed that, while beautiful, it lacked the substance of its literary predecessor of the same name (written by Bernard Malamud and originally published in 1952). As an adaptation it had clearly fallen short, turning a “brooding moral fable” into a “fairly tale,” as Vincent Canby wrote in hisNew York Timesreview. He went on to call the film “eccentrically sentimental”—a “big, handsome, ultimately vapid screen adaptation.” From a cultural studies perspective, Canby’s insistence on comparing the film with the book, and finding the former a less worthy artistic endeavor...

  7. Part Two: Masculinity, Misogyny, and Race in Sports Films

    • You Throw Like a Girl: Sports and Misogyny on the Silver Screen
      (pp. 105-128)
      Dayna B. Daniels

      Sports have traditionally been accepted as a male domain. Incorrect beliefs about the histories of games and sports, and the invisibility of girls and women as participants, have created a foundation of myths upon which the contemporary culture of sports and the construction of masculinity have been built (see, for example, Messner). As is true in many aspects of recorded history, including motion pictures, women are not generally included in sports histories unless an individual woman or group of women is recognized as having been exceptionally outstanding. The invisibility of girls’ and women’s games and events, not to mention many...

    • As American As …: Filling in the Gaps and Recovering the Narratives of America’s Forgotten Heroes
      (pp. 129-154)
      Pellom McDaniels III

      Novelist William Brasher’sThe Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings(1973), a fictitious representation of the black baseball leagues of the 1930s, is the definitive work on the leagues, its players, and the effects of race on the quality of life among blacks relegated to the margins of society. In 1976, three years after the novel’s initial publication, the movie based on the novel, starring 1970s icon Billy Dee Williams as Bingo Long and the incomparable James Earl Jones as Leon Carter, made its debut on the big screen. Throughout the film, baseball represents a critical vehicle in the construction...

    • Basketball’s Great White Hope and Ronald Reagan’s America: Hoosiers
      (pp. 155-171)
      Ron Briley

      In 1986 first-time feature director David Anspaugh and Orion Pictures released the commercially successful basketball filmHoosiers. The popular film has remained a staple for video rentals and cable television, leadingSports Illustratedto nameHoosiersas the sixth best sports movie of all time.¹ Based on a screenplay by Angelo Pizzo, who met Anspaugh at the basketball-infatuated University of Indiana,Hoosiersattempts to reconstruct the “Milan Miracle” of 1954 in which the Milan Indians, a school of only 161 students, defeated Muncie Central, with an enrollment of more than two thousand students, for the Indiana boys’ state basketball championship....

    • “Just Some Bum from the Neighborhood”: The Resolution of Post–Civil Rights Tension and Heavyweight Public Sphere Discourse in Rocky
      (pp. 172-198)
      Victoria A. Elmwood

      The endurance of the motion pictureRocky, the 1976 Oscar winner for Best Picture, has recently been reaffirmed in twenty-first-century popular culture. The movie’s twenty-fifth anniversary rerelease in 2001 and the accompanying publicity in high-profile entertainment magazines likeEntertainment Weeklysuggest that, despite the mockery garnered by formulaic sequels in the 1980s, the character of Rocky Balboa continues to be a powerful icon with a semiotic currency for those born in the 1980s. This essay explores why the 1970s blockbuster boxing film became and continues to be a stable commodity in the American cultural meaning market over the past twenty-five...

    • Fighting for Manhood: Rocky and Turn-of-the-Century Antimodernism
      (pp. 199-216)
      Clay Motley

      Sylvester Stallone’sRocky, winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1976, not only began one of Hollywood’s most lucrative and recognizable film “franchises,” it began a battle of interpretation over the film’s meaning. The iconic rise of the underdog from south Philadelphia, serendipitously plucked out of obscurity to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, clearlymeantsomething to the packed, electrified theatres cheering Rocky on as if he were a real fighter. AsRocky’s legacy grew to become one of the most recognizable films of all time, the importance of understanding its significance equally increased. Critics curious...

  8. Part Three: National Identity and Political Confrontation in Sports Competition

    • Do You Believe in Miracles? Whiteness, Hollywood, and a Post-9/11 Sports Imagination
      (pp. 219-236)
      David J. Leonard

      After watchingMiracle(2004), a film about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, for what felt like the tenth time, I was struck by my emotional and visceral reaction to the film. Despite my “oppositional gaze,” my tendency toward critique, and my disdain for patriotism, cheesy dramas, and hyperbole, I found myself rooting for a U.S. hockey team that I knew had conquered the great Soviet team. Whispering “USA … USA” along with the film, I experienced pride and excitement in the team’s onscreen success. I found myself celebrating their amazing accomplishments and wondering if we would ever see another...

    • An Olympic Omnibus: International Competition, Cooperation, and Politics in Visions of Eight
      (pp. 237-260)
      David Scott Diffrient

      Because the inauguration of the modern Olympic Games—founded by social theorist andrénovateurBaron Pierre de Coubertin and held in Athens in 1896—roughly coincides with the birth of cinema, it should come as no surprise that the two served as mutually enriching sources of dramatic material throughout the twentieth century. From Leni Riefenstahl’s poetic yet problematic record of the 1936 Berlin games,Olympia(Olympische Spiele, 1938) to such cinematic and televisual biopics asJim Thorpe: All American(1951) andThe Jesse Owens Story(1984), the Olympics have inspired numerous documentary and fiction films around the world. Such works...

    • Why He Must Run: Class, Anger, and Resistance in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
      (pp. 261-278)
      John Hughson

      “The war between the classes has never been joined in British films as openly as it was this week. In the forties the working class were idiomtalking idiots, loyal or baleful. In the fifties they grew rightly articulate and angry. Now we get what may be the prototype for the sixties: Colin Smith, boy hero ofThe Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, a youth beyond anger, almost beyond speech, joining battle”—so wrote theSunday Telegraphfilm critic P. Williams (cited in Hill 213) in a review of Tony Richardson’s filmThe Loneliness of the Long Distance Runnerafter...

    • “Every Nation Needs a Legend”: The Miracle of Bern and the Formation of a German Postwar Foundational Myth
      (pp. 279-302)
      Tobias Hochscherf and Christoph Laucht

      A strong disparity exists between soccer as the world’s most popular sport and the comparative lack of interest it has traditionally enjoyed in the United States, the world’s biggest sports market.¹ As historian Bill Murray points out, the unparalleled expansion of soccer, or “football” as it is called outside the United States, has made the game “the ruling passion in virtually all of Europe and Latin America, as well as most of Asia and all of Africa, [with] only the English-speaking nations outside Great Britain [remaining] unconquered.”² In Germany alone, the Deutscher Fußball Bund (DFB), the national soccer association, has...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 303-306)
  10. Index
    (pp. 307-320)