Tuesday, June 05, 2018

indelible moment: "Bang the Drum Slowly"

Sports-oriented male soap operas aren't my bag. I mean, I can take or leave "Brian's Song." But there's something about Robert DeNiro's vulnerable performance in John Hancock's "Bang the Drum Slowly" (1973) - as Bruce Pearson, a rather slow-witted catcher from Georgia who comes down with a terminal illness - that brings a lump to my throat. Mostly because DeNiro, out of character, admirably underplays the role.

The film's indelible moment comes early on when Bruce, preparing for death, has gathered together all his baseball mementos, awards and clippings and quietly slips out one night and burns them in a farewell bonfire. The sequence lasts a few seconds but you can smell the smoke.

It stays with you forever.

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(from top) 

~A burning newspaper page in "Bang the Drum Slowly"
~Robert DeNiro burning his memorabilia in a scene from the film 
~photography: Paramount Pictures 1973©


MrsHenryWindleVale said...

> Sports-oriented male soap operas

Not that I've seen it myself, mind you, but ... how do you feel about "Fear Strikes Out"?

joe baltake said...

Here's what I wrote on "Fear Strikes Out" in my April 1st, 2007 post http://thepassionatemoviegoer.blogspot.com/2007/04/turner-this-month-bravo.html:

Karl Malden as Mama Rose

Astute movie buffs know that Karl Malden played Herbie to Roz Russell’s Rose in Mervyn LeRoy’s sublime film version of the Styne-Sondheim musical, “Gypsy” (1961) which, of course, is about a horrible stage mother who brutalizes her daughters while ushering them to potential stardom. What some fans may not have picked up on is that Malden did a male variation on the material in Robert Mulligan’s “Fear Strikes Out” (1957), playing the toxic “stage father” of ballplayer Jimmy Piersall (essayed by Anthony Perkins in a stunning performance). Papa Piersall bullied his gifted, athletic son into a nervous breakdown, all so that the son could achieve Pop’s dreams. Just like Mama Rose. “Fear Strikes Out” airs on April 4 at 11 a.m. (8 a.m. pst).

Ben said...

That's a lovely moment. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Marvin Halpern said...

In addition to De Niro's superb performance, there were Michael Moriarty, Vincent Gardenia, Phil Foster, Heather MacRae, Selma Diamond, and the late great Ann Wedgworth, all of whom giving wonderful, career-defining performances. J. Usher

joe baltake said...

Marvin- Yes, a bottomless pit of great character actors and a once-promising leading lady, Heather MacRae. -J