Up the River

This early talkie (1930) by John Ford is a pleasant, loose-limbed surprise—nothing major, but a film Ford obviously enjoyed making, perhaps because it gave him a rare opportunity to indulge his passion for baseball. Ford picked a young stage actor, Spencer Tracy, to play the lead—a star pitcher on a prison baseball team who breaks out of the joint the night before a big game. Ford's direction is amiably casual and off the cuff, leaving lots of room for improvised bits from the supporting cast, which includes Warren Hymer, William Collier, and another Broadway exile then breaking into movies, Humphrey Bogart. 92 min.

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