Monday, January 16, 2017

Criss Cross

Well, it's happened again. I just finished watching the 1949 movie "Criss Cross," starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne De Carlo, and Dan Duryea (who had a small role in "The Pride of the Yankees," but that's another story), and darned if there isn't some baseball in the background.

For those who aren't aware, I've blogged about finding baseball in movies that basically have nothing to do with baseball a number of times. Feel free to read more:
In "Criss Cross," the first appearance of baseball occurs about half an hour into the film, when Steve Thompson (played by Lancaster) and Anna Dundee (played by De Carlo) meet in a drug store. As the two talk, one can see a cigarette advertisement in the background above and behind De Carlo (and through the haze of Lancaster's own cigarette). Here's a screen capture:

The ad is for Chesterfield Cigarettes, and features a slogan they copyrighted in April of 1948: "The Baseball Man's Cigarette." Here's what the actual ad looks like:

The captions for the six baseball men on the ad read as follows (clockwise from bottom left):
  • Bucky Harris, Manager of World's Champion New York Yankees
  • Boston Braves' Bob Elliott, Voted Most Valuable Player in the National League
  • Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox
  • Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Champion N.Y. Yankees' Joe DiMaggio, Voted Most Valuable Player in the American League
  • Ewell Blackwell, Cincinnati Reds
The movie was shot during the 1948 season, so these were great stars for Chesterfield to use. There's the manager of the Yankees, who won the 1947 World Series, as well as both MVPs from the season. Ted Williams and Stan Musial were perennial all-stars, so they were perfect choices to pitch the cigarettes. And while many of today's fans may not have heard of the final player, Ewell Blackwell was the brightest pitching star of 1947.

There was no Cy Young Award at the time, but had there been, Blackwell would have easily captured the 1947 version. Nicknamed "The Whip," the 6'6" sidearmer posted a mark of 22-8 with a 2.47 ERA for an otherwise forgettable Cincinnati Reds club that won just 77 games that season. Blackwell never did approach that kind of success again, as shoulder problems plagued him for the rest of his career. But in 1947, Blackwell was the tops.

Note, that the ad in the movie was slightly altered from the seen one above in two main ways:
  • the bottom portion, which features the famous "Always Buy Chesterfield" slogan, has been cropped out;
  • the pack of Chesterfield cigarettes in the center of the ad has been obscured by three packs of  cigarettes affixed to the front.
These alterations were clearly made so as to hide the manufacturer's name, both at the bottom of the advertisement and on the image of the cigarette pack at center. Here I've superimposed the color ad on the screen capture to highlight the similarities and alterations:

The ad shows up again at the end of the scene, this time over Lancaster's shoulder, as he and De Carlo talk near the entrance to the drug store

The ad is altered in the same fashion as the previous one. In fact, it may very well be the exact same prop, moved to a new location. Again, I've superimposed the color ad on the screen capture:

I consider this a major find, not because the baseball advertisement is significant in any way, but because I somehow managed to take my eyes off the incredibly gorgeous Yvonne De Carlo in order to stumble across the ad in the first place.

The very next scene in the movie also features some hidden baseball. This time, Lancaster is back at his mother's home, preparing to go out on a date. He talks with his mother and just as he is about to leave we see a framed photograph on the wall near his door. Here are two screen shots showing the photo:

And here are two details from the above shots:

The images are quite blurry, but I believe they both show a picture of a ballplayer (at right) posing with another person. Alas, I have been unable to make any headway in identifying this photo. Any ideas?