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Like to hear from Peter and other Richocheters on this. As a Notre Dame man, I might be thought to favor Ronald Reagan as George Gipp in “Knute Rockne, All American.” Yet I’ve always preferred “The Winning Team,” where Reagan played pitching great Grover Cleveland Alexander — with Doris Day playing wife Aimee. Last night I saw it again for the first time in many, many years, and found another reason to like it.
As the promo for last night’s screening noted, how could you get more American than a Reagan flick that features Doris Day and is about baseball? Though it takes more than a few liberties with Alexander’s life — the guy who came on after said Reagan was disappointed that Warner Brothers would not go for a more realistic film — Reagan gives a good performance. You see, Alexander had epilepsy, may have suffered lingering effects from the shellshock he experienced in World War II, and caused even more problems for himself when he took to the bottle. Reagan gives a very sympathetic performance of a troubled man.
Now, I come from a long line of what we call practicing alcoholics and nonpracticing alcoholics (we immensely prefer the latter). My dad, who as a child felt the brunt of this, and had every reason to hate boozers, neverthelesss once said to me that in his experience he’d never met an alcoholic who wasn’t a very kind and decent man sober. That seems to me how Reagan played Alexander.
And last night I wondered: Was part of the reason for Reagan’s very sympathetic performance of this troubled man that he was playing his dad?