This Week in 1976: Opening Day for 'The Bad News Bears'
Thirty-five years ago this week (on April 6, 1976), just in time for the beginning of baseball season, Hollywood delivered the best movie ever made about Little League. 'The Bad News Bears' was, on the surface, a traditional sports flick about underdogs who come together as a team and make it to the championship, but it still broke the rules for both sports films and movies about children. The coach (Walter Matthau) was a cynical alcoholic, and the kids were an equally cynical group of foul-mouthed misfits. Lessons of teamwork and sportsmanship were taught, but no one really became a better person.
Surprisingly, their gleeful vulgarity is what endeared viewers to these kids, so much so that the film spawned two sequels, a TV series, and a 2005 remake. Even today, the former child actors who starred in the original film, most of whom dropped out of show business when they grew up, continue to be recognized for their part in the Bears' championship season. So let's play a little game of "Where Are They Now?"
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•The most successful of the cast currently seems to be Jackie Earle Haley, who played motorcycle-riding outfielder Kelly Leak. He dropped out of showbiz for a long time but has made a brilliant comeback in recent years with such projects as 'Little Children,' 'Watchmen,' and Fox TV's 'Human Target.'
•Tatum O'Neal, who played pitching ace Amanda Whurlitzer, the team's only girl, is surely the most famous alum. While her personal travails are well-known, her movie career has faltered. (Her last prominent screen role was as Dakota Fanning's mom in 2010's 'The Runaways.') She's done well on TV, though, as a regular on FX's 'Rescue Me.'
•Alfred Lutter (bespectacled bookworm Ogilvie, who spouted statistics and played first base) is now CEO of a software company called NetChemistry.
•David Pollock (relief pitcher Rudi Stein, who often allowed himself to be beaned in order to walk to first base) worked as a manager at Boeing and has been active in California politics on school boards and the city council in the town of Moorpark.
•Gary Cavagnaro (catcher Engelberg, target of numerous fat jokes) is a senior sales representative at Omron Electronic Components in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
•David Stambaugh (first baseman and self-appointed team spokesman Toby Whitewood) is a pastor at Hollywood United Methodist Church.
•Joyce Van Patten, who played league manager Cleveland, is still active in movies and TV at 77. Recent films include 'Grown Ups' and 'Marley & Me.'
•Walter Matthau (Coach Buttermaker) continued to be in demand as a comic leading man for the next quarter century after 'Bears,' in such hits as 'House Calls' and the 'Grumpy Old Men' movies. He died in 2000.
•Quinn Smith (frail right-fielder Lupus) became a Hollywood writer and documentary filmmaker. He did a radio interview just last week where he touted a forthcoming reunion movie, 'The Bad News Bears Back In Action,' that will reunite most of the now middle-aged cast, with the notable exception of Ogilvie, now to be played by Corey Feldman, who starred in the TV version. Batter up!
1960 (April 4): 'Ben-Hur' wins a record 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Charlton Heston. To date, only 'Titanic' and 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King' have matched the biblical epic's Oscar haul.
1962 (April 9): For her performance in 'Two Women' as a protective mother shielding her daughter amid the ravages of World War II, Sophia Loren wins a Best Actress Oscar, the first Academy Award given for a non-English language performance. It'll be 37 years before her feat is duplicated, when fellow Italian Roberto Benigni wins Best Actor for a similar role in 'Life Is Beautiful.'
1968 (April 6): Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' is released, inspiring countless head trips, late-night college bull sessions, and future big-screen space operas.
1970 (April 7): John Wayne wins the only acting Oscar of his career for his starring role as ornery, one-eyed marshal Rooster Cogburn in the original 'True Grit.'
1978 (April 3): Sorry, 'Star Wars' fans. At the Oscars, 'Annie Hall' beats the space saga for Best Picture, also winning Best Actress for Diane Keaton and Best Director and Original Screenplay for Woody Allen. Allen becomes the first person to win an Academy Award for directing a movie he also starred in.
2008 (April 5): Forty-eight years and one day after his Oscar win for 'Ben-Hur,' Charlton Heston dies at 84. The legendary actor and activist had remained in demand as a leading man and character actor until Alzheimer's disease halted his career in 2002.
Alec Baldwin turned 53 on April 3, the same day that Eddie Murphy hit the big 5-0. April 6's birthday boys are not as young as you think they are; Paul Rudd is 42, and Zach Braff is 36. April 9 sees Kristen Stewart turn 21 and Dakota-in-training Elle Fanning turn 13. (It's also Dennis Quaid's 57th.) April 4 marked Robert Downey Jr.'s 46th birthday. April 7 is cake day for men of action Russell Crowe (47) and Jackie Chan (57).
Among movie oldtimers, director Francis Ford Coppola turns 72 on April 7, while his mentor, B-movie guru Roger Corman, turned 85 on April 5. James Garner's 83rd is April 7, and Doris Day was 89 on April 3. Also, we can't believe
'Arthur' - Trailer No. 1
Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Nick Nolte
Directed By: Jason Winer
What's It About? In this remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy, Brand plays the spoiled, drunken playboy torn between an arranged marriage (to Garner) that will allow him to maintain his lavish lifestyle or true love (with Gerwig) and disinheritance. In a nice gender twist, Mirren plays the valet/nanny role that won John Gielgud an Oscar in the original.
Why Should You See It? Brand is on a roll right now, and Mirren adds class to just about any movie. Plus, these days, any movie that celebrates alcoholism and unrepentant wealth is practically bold and subversive.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Get Him to the Greek,' 'Red,' binge drinking
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'Your Highness' (R)
Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman
Directed By: David Gordon Green
What's It About? It's a medieval stoner comedy about two princely brothers, one a ne'er-do-well (McBride) and one a dashing overachiever (Franco), out to rescue a damsel in distress (Deschanel). Along for the ride is a warrior in an armored bikini (Portman) and various monsters, including a well-hung minotaur.
Why Should You See It? You had us at "medieval stoner comedy." (And this one is from the team behind 'Pineapple Express.') Also, did we mention Natalie Portman in an armored bikini?
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Pineapple Express,' 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail,' 'Jabberwocky'
Video Interview: Green and McBride on Minotaur Genitalia
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'Soul Surfer' (PG)
Starring: Dennis Quaid, AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Lorraine Nicholson, Carrie Underwood
Directed By: Sean McNamara
What's It About? Robb plays teenage surfing champ Bethany Hamilton, who famously lost an arm to a shark but, through faith and courage, managed to climb back on the board a month later. Quaid and Hunt are her parents, and singer Underwood makes her film acting debut as Hamilton's youth pastor.
Why Should You See It? It's the only family-friendly movie opening this week. The story (adapted from Hamilton's memoir) is certainly inspirational. And the surfing footage (with stunts done by Hamilton herself) is reportedly breathtaking.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Blue Crush,' '127 Hours,' 'Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken'
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams
Directed By: Joe Wright
What's It About? Ronan plays a teenage girl trained by her father (Bana) to be the perfect assassin. Sent across Europe on a mission, she's pursued in turn by ruthless spy Blanchett.
Why Should You See It? Art-house director Wright promises to lend some intelligence to the usual cloak-and-dagger action spectacle, and he works well with the precocious Ronan (nominated for an Oscar for Wright's 'Atonement').
You Might Like It If You Like: 'La Femme Nikita,' 'Kick-Ass,' 'The Bourne Identity'
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'Born to Be Wild' is an IMAX 3-D documentary about scientists who rescue orphaned orangutans and elephants, raise them and then return them to the wild. Morgan Freeman (who else?) narrates.
Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews | Trailers & Clips
'Ceremony' is about a young man (Michael Angarano) whose plan to break up his ex-girlfriend's (Uma Thurman) wedding to a rich director (Lee Pace) hits a snag when the groom befriends him and invites him to spend the weekend at the beach house where the nuptials are to take place.
Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews | Trailers & Clips | Interview with director Max Winkler
•'Hop' - Russell Brand plays an irresponsible, slacker heir who has trouble getting along in the real world. It's like a family-friendly version of 'Arthur,' but with floppy ears, eggs and candy. Showtimes & Tickets | Reviews | Trailers & Clips
•'Source Code' - Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan shine in Duncan Jones' smart time-travel thriller. Showtimes & Tickets | Cinematical's Review | Trailers & Clips
•Insidious - Cheap but effective haunted house chills from the folks who brought you 'Saw' and 'Paranormal Activity.' Showtimes & Tickets | Cinematical's Review | Trailers & Clips
New on DVD: There are many visual treats in 'TRON: Legacy,' which, besides the neon-lit, inside-the-Matrix sets and special effects, include the sight of a grizzled Jeff Bridges acting opposite a younger version of himself and the sight of Olivia Wilde in an illuminated catsuit. Of course, none of this may look as awesome at home as it did in 3-D in theaters, and all that visual pizazz may not be enough to distract you from the roteness of the trapped-in-a-computer-game storyline, but if you're the target audience for this sort of thing (you know who you are), you won't mind one
On Our Netflix Queue: Is it only a matter of time before the radiation from the Japanese nuclear disaster taints our air, water and food? That fear, plus what would have been the 85th birthday of Gregory Peck (on April 5), made us revisit the classic 'On the Beach' (1959). In that film, nuclear war has devastated the northern hemisphere, and folks in Australia (including American submarine commander Peck and his crew) are biding their time until the winds bring the fallout Down Under and kill everyone else. Several characters (including lonely siren Ava Gardner, aging egghead Fred Astaire and young dad Anthony Perkins) get maudlin and self-indulgent, and even Peck loses it for a while, but ultimately, that familiar Peck gravitas helps ground everyone's anxiety and dread and even provides a small measure of hope. Buy or rent the DVD
On TV: If Elizabeth Taylor's recent passing has reignited your ardor for all things Liz - or if you're too young to remember her when she was a beloved actress and wonder what all the fuss was about - park your remote at TCM on Sunday, as the classic movie channel is airing 24 straight hours of Taylor's best films, starting at 6AM. Primetime sees screenings of her two Oscar-winning performances, in 'Butterfield 8' and 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' Check your local listings
Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.