7.0/10
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Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

The story of the friendship between a star pitcher, wise to the world, and a half-wit catcher, as they cope with the catcher's terminal illness through a baseball season.

Director:

John D. Hancock (as John Hancock)

Writers:

Mark Harris (novel), Mark Harris (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Bruce Pearson
Michael Moriarty ... Henry 'Author' Wiggen
Vincent Gardenia ... Dutch Schnell
Phil Foster ... Joe Jaros
Ann Wedgeworth ... Katie
Patrick McVey Patrick McVey ... Bruce's Father
Heather MacRae ... Holly Wiggen
Selma Diamond ... Tootsie, Hotel Switchboard Operator
Barbara Babcock ... Team Owner
Maurice Rosenfield Maurice Rosenfield ... Team Owner
Tom Ligon ... Piney Woods
Andy Jarrell Andy Jarrell ... Ugly
Marshall Efron ... Bradley
Donny Burks Donny Burks ... Perry
Tom Signorelli Tom Signorelli ... Goose Williams
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Storyline

Henry Wiggen (Author to his friends) and Bruce Pearson are members of the New York Mammoths major league baseball team - Author the star pitcher, Bruce the catcher who never quite lived up to his potential - friends, and roommates when they're on the road. During the off season, Bruce is diagnosed with a terminal case of Hodgkin's disease. Author is the only person on the team who knows of Bruce's illness, with neither planning on telling anyone. Author takes extraordinary measures to ensure that he is playing ball with Bruce during what will probably be Bruce's final season before he can no longer play. Author looks after Bruce in part because Bruce is mentally a simple man who can easily be taken advantage of, especially by his opportunistic girlfriend Katie. As the season progresses, the team isn't quite gelling, despite being the best team on paper. But as information comes to light, the dynamic on the team changes to make it a memorable end of the season especially for Bruce, who... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Sport

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

9 March 1978 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Das letzte Spiel See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The title likely references the song "Streets of Laredo", in which a dying cowboy sings "Oh, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly, And play the dead march as you carry me along." See more »

Goofs

When Piney Woods is playing the guitar in the locker room during the rain delay, he clearly has a splint or heavy bandage on the index finger of his right hand. Such an injury would make it very unlikely that he would play. In a scene later that night set in a hotel room, Piney has no apparent finger injury. See more »

Quotes

Dutch Schnell: Skip the facts, just gimme the details.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Directors: The Films of Martin Scorsese (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Look Before You Weep
Music and Lyrics by Orville Stoeber
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Early DeNiro gives a good look at actor's incredible range
31 December 1999 | by dfranzen70See all my reviews

Most of us, at the end of the 20th century, know Robert DeNiro as an actor who has portrayed countless tough guys onscreen, in movies such as Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Mean Streets, and even up to Ronin. But before Bobby was cast (and cast and cast and cast)as Hollywood's chief badfella, he co-starred in this adaptation of a novel by Mark Harris as a simpleton baseball catcher who may be dying.

Many people feel that playing a sick or handicapped character is relatively easy for an actor, but in truth there's more to acting than simply limping or slurring one's speech. DeNiro's character, we learn early on, is dying - just when his chances of sticking with the big club are tenuous at best. His best friend is played by Michael Moriarty, whose character is a seasoned, talented pitcher. Moriarty learns of DeNiro's fate during an off season, and decides to do all he can to help his friend, to make what life he has left a pleasant one.

Both actors turn in magnificent performances, but you can't beat this film for an excellent foretelling of a major talent. By 1973, DeNiro had acted in a few movies (including a couple from his once and future director, Brian DePalma), but it was his astounding work in this film that really put him on the map. His Bruce Pearson isn't just a simpleton for whom the audience is supposed to feel a truckload of sympathy - there are many television movies that do just that - he's a multilayered person. DeNiro squeezes more emotion out of a single sideways smile than many actors can do in their entire careers. What's more, even though you the viewer know what Pearson's fate is, you're no less pulling for him.

Call this a tearjerker, and you'd be correct. But ultimately, DeNiro's conviction and a solid script put this far above most other films of this genre.


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