Fine, faithful adaptation of the hit Broadway musical comedy. 4 Stars

George Abbott and Stanley Donen’s Damn Yankees brings Broadway sass and verve to the big screen with a colorful and very faithful screen adaptation of the stage smash.

Damn Yankees (1958)
Released: 06 Mar 1959
Rated: Approved
Runtime: 111 min
Director: George Abbott, Stanley Donen
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance, Sport
Cast: Tab Hunter, Gwen Verdon, Ray Walston, Russ Brown
Writer(s): George Abbott (screenplay by), George Abbott (based upon the play "Damn Yankees" book by), Douglass Wallop (based upon the play "Damn Yankees" book by), Douglass Wallop (from novel "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant")
Plot: A frustrated fan of the hopeless Washington Senators makes a pact with the Devil to help the baseball team win the league pennant.
IMDB rating: 7.1
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Warner Archive
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 03/16/2021
MSRP: $21.99

The Production: 4/5

No finer example of mid-20th century musical comedy exists than Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’ Damn Yankees, and its 1958 screen version, brought forth by basically the same team responsible for the sparkling movie version of The Pajama Game produced the year before, delivers a mostly faithful reproduction of the show that ran over a thousand performances on Broadway and made a star of the fabulous singing-dancing Gwen Verdon. She’s one of the prime attractions in the movie adaptation, too, along with most of her Broadway cohorts with only the leading man from the stage replaced by the requisitely necessary movie star Tab Hunter.

Diehard Washington Senators fan Joe Boyd (Robert Shafer) is willing to sell his soul to the devil in order for his beloved team to finally be able to defeat perennial victors the New York Yankees for the American League pennant. When the devil in the guise of Mr. Applegate (Ray Walston) appears and offers to make good on Joe’s pledge, Boyd is transformed into baseball sensation Joe Hardy (Tab Hunter) who quick-as-a-flash transforms the beleaguered Senators into a scrappy, gutsy team of winners. Reporter Gloria Thorpe (Rae Allen) senses things aren’t quite as they seem as Joe leads to team toward record-setting victories, but Joe begins to miss his wife Meg (Shannon Bolin) so much that he moves back home as a renter. Applegate summons his vampish heartthrob Lola (Gwen Verdon) as a means of enticing Joe away from hearth and wife, but Lola instead falls for Joe and begins to work toward finding a way to save Joe from having to give his soul over to Applegate at the end of the season.

Yes, it’s the Faust legend that forms the basis of the show’s libretto and the movie’s screenplay (along with Douglass Wallop’s novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant) penned by co-creator/co-director George Abbott, and apart from dropping three songs from the Broadway score (including two beautiful ballads for the leading man leaving Tab Hunter with very little to sing in the movie), the script follows the Broadway show rather slavishly right down to the entertaining but completely irrelevant “Who’s Got the Pain?” mambo danced by Verdon and show/film choreographer Bob Fosse at a celebration of Joe’s success. But all of the highlights from the stage are right up there on the screen including its three showstoppers: “Heart,” the barbershop quartet sung by Senator’s manager Benny Van Buren (Russ Brown) and three of his disheartened players (Nathaniel Frey, James Komack, Albert Linville), “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.,” one of the film’s two big production numbers where actual locations and an expanded number of player/dancers greatly enhance its effectiveness, and, most importantly, “Whatever Lola Wants” where Gwen Verdon’s stripteased vamp which made her internationally famous gets immortalized on film. Directors Stanley Donen and George Abbott use split screens effectively in the opening “Six Months Out of Every Year” and apply amusing (albeit sometimes surprisingly gruesome) optical effects for Applegate’s nostalgic reminiscence “Those Were the Good Old Days” in the spirit of Ted Lewis. The magic capable on-screen with special effects also enriches the big game climax on which the plot hinges. The score’s other hit tune “Two Lost Souls” makes a nifty late-film production number to finally allow their leading man to sing an entire number (in duet with Verdon where Hunter most engagingly handles the harmonic line leaving her with the melody) and even do a little dancing displaying for one of the few times in the movie the musical comedy’s essential element for a successful performance – charm.

Tab Hunter was made to order to serve as the movie star name needed to finance the picture: clean cut, athletic in stature (though much of his baseball footage used a screen double), and with a decent singing voice. The role of Lola was written for Gwen Verdon, and the songs for her were composed with her unique timbre in mind, so watching her perform with silken ease through “A Little Brains, A Little Talent” or dance up a storm throughout makes one grateful that she was fortunate enough to recreate her Tony-winning Broadway role on film. Likewise, the Tony-winning Ray Walston and Russ Brown get to reprise their roles as Applegate and Van Buren, too, and they’re wonderful: Walston with his sly sleight-of-hand tricks with cards and cigarettes and a wonderfully droll way with a double entendre and Brown with his eternal optimism and unshakeable faith in his new ball-playing sensation. Rae Allen is a cracking good Gloria Thorpe, and although Shannon Bolin is stuck with one of the least appealing and most mournful songs in musical history (“There’s Something About an Empty Chair” written expressly for the film), her performance as the baseball widow who loves her errant husband regardless of anything is most pleasing. Jean Stapleton walks away with all of her scenes as Meg’s friend Sister Miller (she even gets to reprise “Heart” with a group of children to hilarious effect), and Robert Shafer’s moving tenor voice adds poignancy to “Goodbye, Old Girl” as his Joe Boyd leaves his wife behind entering into his pact with the devil.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent for the most part, only lessened in a few moments where optical effects soften the image a touch or less desirable elements were used for a few shots. Color is beautiful throughout with hues rock solid and facial tones most appealing. Contrast has been nicely applied, and there are no dirt, dust, scratches, or reel cues to mar the viewing experience. The movie has been divided into 44 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is mostly solid throughout only occasionally questionable in a couple of places where volume levels seem a trifle underpowered. There are certainly no age-related problems with hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter, and the dialogue, song lyrics, music score, and sound effects all blend engagingly in the final product.

Special Features: 1/5

Theatrical Trailers (HD): the US (2:31) and UK (2:32 which retitle the film What Lola Wants) trailers.

Song Selections: main menu listing offers immediate access to seventeen song and dance moments in the film.

Overall: 4/5

George Abbott and Stanley Donen’s Damn Yankees brings Broadway sass and verve to the big screen with a colorful and very faithful screen adaptation of the stage smash. The Warner Archive Blu-ray release offers a noticeable upgrade in picture from the previously released DVD and comes with a firm recommendation.

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Published by

Matt Hough

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JoelA

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This is one of those titles I've been waiting for in HD for a very long time.

I'm on my 2nd DVD (I wore out the 1st!).

So bring it on, baby!

My only quibble right now is that Amazon is projecting an April 9th delivery for the disc.

Maybe I need to look elsewhere.
Another excellent review Matt. Thanks! And Mike, same here for me regarding Amazon which is odd since I've received all of WAC's new releases on the day of release for the past several months now. I thought we were past the delivery anomalies from this last holiday season. Looking forward to seeing this one...eventually.
 

Dick

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This is one of those titles I've been waiting for in HD for a very long time.

I'm on my 2nd DVD (I wore out the 1st!).

So bring it on, baby!

My only quibble right now is that Amazon is projecting an April 9th delivery for the disc.

Maybe I need to look elsewhere.

So, Warner Bros still delays online purchases by a month? I thought that was long over with.
 

David Weicker

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So, Warner Bros still delays online purchases by a month? I thought that was long over with.
Many of the recent WAC releases were not delayed. So this may be a one-time occurrence.

I know my Deep Discount copy is being shipped now (CC charged Sat, tracking # assigned this morning)
 

GlennF

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Up here in Canada I have used Deep Discount and have found them very reasonable price wise and always ship promptly. They often have 10 or 15 per cent off sales.
 

haineshisway

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Many of the recent WAC releases were not delayed. So this may be a one-time occurrence.

I know my Deep Discount copy is being shipped now (CC charged Sat, tracking # assigned this morning)
He, I'm sure, is talking about Amazon - I ordered from there, too, and it's at least two weeks to ship date, which is absurd and hopefully will be fixed.
 

David Weicker

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He, I'm sure, is talking about Amazon - I ordered from there, too, and it's at least two weeks to ship date, which is absurd and hopefully will be fixed.
I was referring to other recent Amazon WAC releases that came out in a timely manner for the past few months

(Tale Of Two Cities, San Francisco, After The Thin Man, Shop Around The Corner, Pajama Game, etc. all ordered by me from Amazon)
 

Mike Frezon

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Yes. I have been getting my WA releases from Amazon on time recently.

But this April 9th date on Damn Yankees seems to be a throwback to when there were issues.

I checked out switching my order to Deep Discount but couldn't find anything else to order to engage free shipping.

I watched my DVD recently enough. I can wait a little bit longer.
 

dukiejosh54

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Did amazon stop doing release day delivery? my WAC pre-orders had been arriving the day of release the last several months but this month both my orders estimated delivery was after the release date.
 

Will Krupp

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Just got the Amazon notice that, even though the arrival date they had as of earlier today was March 24th through April 21st, the package shipped today and is due to arrive tomorrow by 10pm. I expect others will get the same and they will arrive on time!
 

Robert Crawford

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Just got the Amazon notice that, even though the arrival date they had as of earlier today was March 24th through April 21st, the package shipped today and is due to arrive tomorrow by 10pm. I expect others will get the same and they will arrive on time!
Yup, I got a similar email notice which is why I didn't cancel my Amazon orders for this movie nor Crossfire as Amazon constantly does this crap.