Bang The Drum Slowly (1973)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 1973.  ANJS, Dibs Partnership, Paramount Pictures.  Screenplay by , based on his novel.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Touching film about the friendship between two baseball players on a major league team, something like Midnight Cowboy but without all the traumatic hardship.  Upstanding and sensitive  keeps a lid on the news when slovenly Robert De Niro finds out during a stay at the Mayo Clinic that he is dying of a terminal illness, even having De Niro’s position on their fictional New York team written into his contract to make sure that his friend stays employed for as long as he can still swing a bat.

Their desire to keep the news a secret becomes a challenge as they continue through a season during which the entire team is rife with conflict between players and their impatient coach (Vincent Gardenia, hamming it up like an adorable pro), who has to maintain order while trying to get to the bottom of the secret he has sniffed out between these guys. It’s not a superbly captivating drama, its conflicts are played out in a muted, sometimes slack manner, but the characterizations are all rich and the dialogue is intelligent.

The film avoids sentimentality despite how very easy it would be to go there, making it all that much more moving when you finally get to the end. De Niro might have been easier to swallow as Georgia trash when the film was first released, well before he was established as the anti-hero of Scorsese’s epics.

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Supporting Actor (Vincent Gardenia)

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