AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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It Happens Every Spring
Director: Lloyd Bacon (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 1949
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 10 Jun 1949
Production Date:   13 Dec 1948--25 Jan 1949
Duration (in mins):   87
Duration (in feet):   7,818
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Ray Milland (Vernon Simpson, also known as King Kelly)  
    Jean Peters (Deborah Greenleaf)  
    Paul Douglas (Monk Lanigan)  
    Ed Begley (Stone)  
    Ted de Corsia (Jimmy Dolan)  
    Ray Collins (Professor Greenleaf)  
    Jessie Royce Landis (Mrs. Greenleaf)  
    Alan Hale Jr. (Schmidt)  
    Bill Murphy (Isbell)  
    William E. Green (Professor Forsythe)  
    Edward Keane (Jack Bell)  
    Gene Evans (Batter)  
    Ruth Lee (Miss Collins)  
    Jane Van Duser (Miss Mengalstein)  
    Ray Teal (Mac)  
    Don Hicks (Assistant to announcer)  
    Mickey Simpson (Policeman)  
    Johnny Calkins (Boy)  
    Harry Cheshire (Doctor)  
    Harry Seymour (Clerk)  
    Robert B. Williams (Reporter)  
    Bob Adler (Reporter)  
    Charles Flynn (Reporter)  
    Ward Brant (Baseball player)  
    John McKee (Baseball player)  
    Baird Allington (Baseball player)  
    John Butler (Fan)  
    Harry Carter (Fan)  
    George Melford (Conductor)  
    Douglas Spencer (Conductor)  
    Debra Paget (Alice)  
    Kathleen Hughes (Sarah)  
    Lee MacGregor (Student)  
    Joseph R. Liscio (Trainer)  
    Max Wagner (Umpire)  
    Brick Sullivan (Umpire)  
    Edwin Randolph (Umpire)  
    Pat Combs (Messenger boy)  
    Bill Cartledge (Newsboy)  
    Frank "Billy" Mitchell (Janitor)  
    Mae Marsh (Maid)  
    Sam Hayes (New York announcer)  
    Tom Hanlon (St. Louis broadcaster)  

Summary: Vernon Simpson is a young university chemistry professor working on his doctorate degree and is in love with the university president's daughter, Deborah Greenleaf. Vernon's department head, Prof. Forsythe, tells Greenleaf that upon completion of Simpson's degree, he intends to nominate him as director of a new research laboratory. Unknown to Forsythe, however, Vernon has a major flaw: every spring he becomes absentminded due to his intense interest in baseball. Debbie's father has made it clear to Vernon that, given his current financial situation, he should not be considering marriage to Debbie. However, Vernon tells Debbie that the situation may change very soon as a result of the experiment he is working on. Vernon has been developing a chemical compound to keep insects and other living matter away from wood, and has a major company interested in marketing it. His experimental setup is destroyed, however, after a baseball crashes through his lab window and lands in his chemical "soup" in the sink. When Vernon discovers that chemically coated ball is repelled by wooden objects, he realizes the enormous impact his find could have on the game of baseball. To verify his findings, Vernon arranges to have two student baseball players, Schmidt and Isbell, help him in exchange for additional tutoring. When Vernon throws a baseball that has been rubbed with a cloth soaked in the compound, it repeatedly jumps away from the swung bat and into the catcher's mitt. Although he cannot reconstitute the compound, Vernon immediately asks Prof. Greenleaf for an emergency leave of absence to demonstrate his findings, the details of which he does not reveal to Greenleaf. Vernon takes a train to St. Louis, heads for the baseball stadium and sees manager Jimmy Dolan. Although Vernon bills himself as the pitcher Dolan is in great need of, Dolan tries to have him thrown out. Club owner Stone, however, arranges for him to demonstrate his prowess, fully expecting him to be humiliated. Working with Monk Lanigan as his catcher, Vernon strikes out the team's top batters, and Stone realizes they have found a new star. After Vernon, who is playing under the name King Kelly, wins the first game he plays in against Chicago, he negotiates a lucrative contract with Dolan and Stone. Dolan assigns Monk to room with Vernon and keep an eye on him, as Dolan thinks Vernon is a "screwball." When Monk notices the bottle containing the chemical compound among Vernon's belongings, Vernon tells him that it is a prescription hair tonic. Vernon then reads a newspaper item reporting that he is missing and that a search has been initiated. After Vernon sends Debbie a diamond ring along with a vague letter asking her to have the police call off the search, Debbie's father thinks Vernon is probably mixed up with racketeers. Later, Debbie's mother spots Vernon at a railroad station in the company of a bunch of tough looking players and assumes they are gangsters. Vernon wins games in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and New York but has to insist that the press take no photographs of him. Meanwhile, Debbie reads a newspaper account about a gang robbing an exclusive jewelry store and removes her ring. When Vernon makes a payment on the ring, he bumps into Debbie, who accuses him of being a gangster. He confesses that he is now a baseball player but Debbie refuses to believe him. Vernon and his compound win every game for the team. One afternoon, Debbie attends a game and, through binoculars, recognizes Vernon. During the game, Monk, Vernon's regular catcher, injures a finger and has to have wooden splints applied to it, causing the ball not only to avoid the bat but Monk's hand as well. The team eventually wins the pennant and is scheduled to play against New York in the World Series, starting in St. Louis. Debbie tells her mother that Vernon is the new baseball sensation, and her father soon finds out the truth as well. Just before Vernon is to pitch the opening game, Dolan to whom Monk has loaned Vernon's bottle of "hair tonic," he returns it to Vernon and accidentally drops it. The bottle breaks, leaving Vernon with no compound to rub on the ball. With Debbie and her parents watching in the stands, Vernon struggles through the game and manages to win by catching a hit with his pitching hand. X-rays reveal that the hand is broken and that he will not be able to play any more. Monk sees Vernon off at the station then phones Debbie. A big crowd, led by Debbie, welcomes Vernon home. Dr. Greenleaf tells him that Stone has given the university money for a new research laboratory and that he will be appointed director. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Lloyd Bacon (Dir)
  Jasper Blystone (Asst dir)
  Hugh Cummings (Dial dir)
Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck (Exec prod)
  William Perlberg (Prod)
Writer: Valentine Davies (Scr)
  Shirley W. Smith (Based on a story by)
  Valentine Davies (Based on a story by)
Photography: Joe MacDonald (Dir of photog)
  Atillio Gabanni (Cam op)
  Anthony Ugrin (Stills)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  J. Russell Spencer (Art dir)
Film Editor: Bruce Pierce (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Stuart Reiss (Set dec)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
  Bonnie Cashin (Cost des)
Music: Leigh Harline (Mus)
  Lionel Newman (Mus dir)
  Edward Powell (Orch)
  Herbert Spencer (Orch)
  Jack Virgil (Orch)
Sound: Eugene Grossman (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
Special Effects: Fred Sersen (Spec photog eff)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
  Allan Snyder (Makeup artist)
  Irene Brooks (Hairstylist)
  Lillian Hokom (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: G. Ross Robertson (Tech adv)
  Ike Danning (Tech adv)
  Charles Hall (Prod mgr)
  Doris Drought (Script supv)
  Frank Cory Jr. (Grip)
Country: United States

Music: "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?" by C. W. Murphy and Will Letters.
Songs: "It Happens Every Spring," music by Josef Myrow, lyrics by Mack Gordon.
Composer: Mack Gordon
  Will Letters
  C. W. Murphy
  Josef Myrow
Source Text: Based on the short story "The Sprightly Adventures of Instructor Simpson" by Shirley W. Smith in Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review (Summer 1946).
Authors: Shirley W. Smith

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 12/5/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP2442

PCA NO: 13650
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

 
Genre: Comedy
  Comedy
Sub-Genre: Baseball
  College
 
Subjects (Major): Baseball
  Chemistry
  Engagements
  Experiments
  Professors
  Universities
  World Series (Baseball)
 
Subjects (Minor): Chicago (IL)
  College students
  Deception
  Fathers and daughters
  Rings
  Trains
  St. Louis (MO)
  World Series (Baseball)

Note: Shirley Wheeler Smith, the chief financial officer at the University of Michigan, originally wrote the short story used in this film for presentation at University Club festivities several years before it was published in the Summer 1946 issue of Michigan Alumnus . According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collection Library, screenwriter Valentine Davies acquired all rights to the story in Mar 1947. Davies agreed to pay Smith fifty percent of all monies received, excluding his fee for writing a screenplay. In Apr 1948, Twentiethc Century-Fox bought a treatment Davies had developed from the story for $40,000. Davies was subsequently hired to write a screenplay, which then became the sole property of the studio. Davies retained publication rights to the treatment, however, and, incorporating material from the screenplay, produced a novel whose publication coincided with the film's release. Onscreen credits state that Davies wrote the screenplay "Based on a story by Shirley W. Smith and Valentine Davies."
       A month before shooting was scheduled to start, (Ray Milland having been borrowed from Paramount), the studio encountered major problems with representatives of professional baseball. Despite the studio's numerous pleas, Commissioner Albert B. "Happy" Chandler, would not grant permission to use actual team names in the film as it was "the story of a cheat, winning a pennant and a World's Championship Series." The studio offered to include a foreword on the film that read: "The adventures of Mr. Vernon K. Simpson, the central character of this story, are purely imaginary. Because they violate both the rules of the game and the law of nature, the things he does are impossible and quite fantastic--like so many other things that happen every Spring." Chandler would not budge, and plans to feature professional players and famed announcer Red Barber were dropped as were names of specific teams and ballparks. However, Wrigley Field in Los Angeles was rented for the game sequences at $525 per day and the University of Southern California received a donation of $250 per day for use of its Bovard Field. A street sequence was shot in Santa Monica, CA, and other exteriors were filmed at USC.
       The final HR production chart, on 21 Jan 1949, lists Dorothy Spencer as film editor, although Bruce Pierce is credited onscreen in that capacity. The extent of Spencer's contribution to the final film is not known. Actors Al Eben, Grandon Rhodes and Robert Patten are listed in the Var review and studio cast lists but their appearance in the released film is doubtful. It Happens Every Spring received an Academy Award nomination for Best Motion Picture Story. A radio adaptation of Davies' script, starring Ray Milland, William Bendix and Coleen Townsend, was broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre on 3 Oct 1949. Another version was broadcast on Screen Directors' Playhouse on 14 Apr 1950. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   14 May 1949.   
Daily Variety   5 May 49   p. 3.
Film Daily   5 May 49   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Dec 48   p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter   Jan 49   p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter   May 49   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   May 49   p. 4597.
New York Times   Jun 49   p. 11.
Variety   11 May 49   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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