It Happens Every Spring (Twentieth Century Fox, 1949)

Ray Milland is a total charmer as the lead in this light-hearted baseball fantasy. Milland stars as chemistry professor Vernon Simpson, who accidentally discovers a potion that repels wood after a baseball flies through his window and destroys his experiment. As he needs money to marry fiancee Deborah Greenleaf (Jean Peters), he takes a leave of absence from boss Professor Alfred Greenleaf (Ray Collins), Deborah's father, and hires himself out to the local St. Louis baseball team as a pitcher.

Working under the pseudonym "King Kelly," he wows the crowds with the amazing "hops" he can make the ball do when it is wiped with the solution he keeps hidden in his glove. It looks like this year, St. Louis might have a chance at the pennant, if only "Kelly" can keep the Greenleafs off his trail.

All the performances are spot-on but it's Paul Douglas that owns this movie as Monk Lanigan, St. Louis catcher and Kelly's roommate and mentor. Douglas is perfect as Milland's gruff but lovable teammate--especially in their scenes together. The way he plays their unable-to-be-displayed affection for each other is funny and touching, particularly in the departure scene. Plus, I didn't for a second believe that Douglas was anything other than a ball player. (This effect may have contributed to his being cast as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in another supernatural baseball comedy, Angels in the Outfield.)

But by far the most interesting aspect of It Happens Every Spring--the title refers to Milland becoming easily distracted during baseball season--is that the ethics of Kelly's actions are never mentioned. Most films would feel a need to moralize on its characters' actions instead of just letting them be. This film holds no such pretentions. It is simply what it is: a movie about a man who loves baseball utilizing a happy accident in the name of love. And it's all the better for it.

[Craig Clarke]