A League of Their Own is a film about female friendship at home
These days, it’s not uncommon to see a film centered on true female friendships; with the success of films like The Brotherhood of Travel Pants, Bridesmaidsand Girls trip, women in front of and behind the camera have rightly (long-awaited) the opportunity to tell stories exploring the complex and nuanced relationships women have with one another. However, thirty years ago, films featuring predominantly female roles were rare, which is why the 1992 films A league apart is a bright spot in the history of cinema. Not only does it allow a set of mostly female characters to shine, but it actively shows women standing up for each other, unthreatened by each other’s presence, and eschews tired cattiness tropes to deliver a funny look. and comforting on one of the Americans. the story is more interesting good words, the formation of the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League.
After the success of the 1990s alarm clockswhich received three Oscar nominations and grossed over $100 million at the box office, Penny Marshall was at the peak of her directorial powers when she entered production. Assemble an all-star cast including Geena Davis (Dottie Hinson) tom hank (Jimmy Dugan), and Madonna (Mae Mordabito), Marshall set out to tell a largely fictionalized version of the league’s founding in the 1940s, when men were recruited to serve in World War II and women were left to play ball. The story follows Dottie de Davis and her little sister Kit Hinson (Lori Petty) as they are recruited to try out the league. Eventually, they are drafted to play for the Rockford Peaches alongside fourteen other women, led by Hanks’ alcoholic former baseball star. We follow the team and its members through the season as they qualify for the playoffs and eventually the World Series, losing in a heartbreak to arch-rivals the Racine Belles in Game 7 after Kit, previously traded to Racine, scored the winning run by plowing Dottie over to the plate.
Davis and Petty are aces as sisters: Davis, the wise, older, married Dottie and Petty, the young Kit spitfire who just wants to get out of the dairy farm and out of Oregon. It’s established early on that there’s a natural competitive spirit between the two, but that only serves to bring out the best in the other. In fact, it’s because of her love for Kit that Dottie even agrees to be recruited in the first place.
When we meet Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanaughlisten)), a power hitter who her father said would play for the New York Yankees if she were born a boy. Marla has an innate talent for baseball, but she is not a natural beauty, and chauvinistic scout Ernie (played with comedic taste by Jon Lovitz) wants to leave her. When he tells the sisters it’s time to leave, they drop their bags and refuse to move. They know how special Marla is and what she can bring to the league. More importantly, they are not threatened by her talent, they want her to succeed and have the opportunity to prove herself. Where a lesser filmmaker might indulge in jealousy of it all, Marshall remains focused on camaraderie, a winning choice she’ll make again and again over the course of the film.
In Chicago during tryouts, the roster begins to fill up, and it’s there that we first meet Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnell) and Madonna’s Mae. The natural chemistry between the two is noticeable from the jump – they play each other brilliantly, almost in the manner of Abbott and Costello, except neither is playing the straight man here. As entertaining as their bada bing both ways, you feel the love and respect the characters and actresses have for each other. Madonna has never looked better than she is here; the film is big enough and the ensemble talented enough to contain its larger-than-life star presence and keep the critics eager to tear it to shreds. It is also during the tests that we encounter Anne Cusackis Shirley Baker, an illiterate woman who cannot read the final lists to determine if she has made it. Instead of sending her away or fleeing her, Anne RamsayHelen Haley comes to her rescue, helping her figure out she’s been drafted into the Peaches. Shortly after, we see Mae teaching Shirley to read – dodgy materials, sure, but in Mae’s own words, “She’s reading, isn’t she?” There’s no “other-ing” by any of the characters, nor any sort of inherently classist structure put in place; they have a mission, to win games, and they realize that the only way to achieve this is to unite.
It’s that instinct and bond of brotherhood that serves them long after their introduction to Dugan. After stumbling drunk into the locker room to relieve themselves before retiring without a word, the Peaches know they’re going to have to step in and manage themselves. This is perhaps the underlying and strongest message of the film – women are unquestionably successful and at their best when they take on their own agency. We see it a few minutes later when pitcher Ellen Sue (Freddie Simpson) nails a heckler with a fastball; when Betty “Spaghetti” Horn (Tracy Reiner) and Kit trick Doris into leaving her abusive, good-for-nothing boyfriend in New York City; when Marla marries the man she fell in love with at a party and leaves for the season. There is no bitterness or backstabbing within the team, only unquestionable support – never more heartbreaking than when Reiner’s Betty learns that her husband George has been killed in action.
In the final climactic game of the film, the atmosphere is naturally tense, but the team spirit is at its peak. Little moments like Little Schram‘s Evelyn (she on the other end of Hanks’ iconic, “There’s No Crying in Baseball”) being thrilled to finally make the right connecting pitch, to bigger beats like the Kit’s valiant run home, we’re on the edge of our seats until the final call, which even then leaves us with the perennial question: Does Dottie drop the ball on purpose after Kit knocks it out? hit? Marshall never gave a definitive answer and the cast is also split. Either way, we see the sisters reconcile before moving on to older versions of most of the team members witnessing their induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
After the peaches for most of the film, of course we want them to be the winners. However, the fact that the league was successful is what matters most. In reality, the AAGPBL would last from 1943 to 1954 and serve as a model for future women’s professional sports leagues like the WNBA. The film’s enduring popularity led Amazon to order a first television adaptation in August, starring Abbi Jacobsen as co-creator and star. One thing we’ll see in the series that the film lacked? Stories Representing Women of Color — Sang Adams, Roberta Colindrezand Gbernisola Ikumelo each plays main characters.
By honoring this important moment in the history of women and sport, avoiding stereotypical portrayals of female relationships, and making sisterhood the centerpiece of history, A league apart is a milestone in the annals of film history. Marshall proved that studio films directed by and starring women could make money, although a disappointing number of female directors and female ensembles subsequently received similar opportunities. Yet her legacy is intact as one of the defining films of female storytelling in the ever-changing landscape of ’90s cinema. Fight back, heed that call indeed.