The Bad News Bears (1976)

PG | 102 mins | Comedy | 6 April 1976

Director:

Michael Ritchie

Writer:

Bill Lancaster

Producer:

Stanley R. Jaffe

Cinematographer:

John Alonzo

Production Designer:

Polly Platt
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HISTORY

Screenwriter Bill Lancaster, son of actor Burt Lancaster, drew his inspiration for The Bad News Bears from his experience playing Little League baseball with a leg crippled by polio, according to a news item in the 19 Apr 1976 LAT. Ben Benjamin, who coached an opposing team during that period, later became Lancaster’s agent and sold his client’s screenplay to Paramount Pictures for $105,000.
       According to a 20 Jul 1975 People news item, Tatum O’Neal’s father, actor Ryan O’Neal, had previously prevented his 11-year-old daughter from accepting any lead roles until the age of 16, after her Oscar-winning debut performance in Paper Moon (1973, see entry). For The Bad News Bears, she would be paid $350,000 and eight percent of net profits. Filming began on 4 Aug 1975 in the Chatsworth district of Los Angeles, according to 11 Aug 1975 DV, and was expected to continue for eight weeks. The article noted that the excessive San Fernando Valley heat and smog had been taking a physical toll on the young cast. However, necessary precautions were taken by Jaffe and Ritchie, including air-conditioned dressing rooms and a large stock of fluids, with a medic and a social worker standing by. Tatum O’Neal was not expected on the set until the following week. An article in the 5 Oct 1975 Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported that the baseball diamond, created by production designer Polly Platt, would be removed when filming was completed, as Chatsworth authorities believed the dugouts would become a “lovers’ lane” for the local youth.
       A feature story in ... More Less

Screenwriter Bill Lancaster, son of actor Burt Lancaster, drew his inspiration for The Bad News Bears from his experience playing Little League baseball with a leg crippled by polio, according to a news item in the 19 Apr 1976 LAT. Ben Benjamin, who coached an opposing team during that period, later became Lancaster’s agent and sold his client’s screenplay to Paramount Pictures for $105,000.
       According to a 20 Jul 1975 People news item, Tatum O’Neal’s father, actor Ryan O’Neal, had previously prevented his 11-year-old daughter from accepting any lead roles until the age of 16, after her Oscar-winning debut performance in Paper Moon (1973, see entry). For The Bad News Bears, she would be paid $350,000 and eight percent of net profits. Filming began on 4 Aug 1975 in the Chatsworth district of Los Angeles, according to 11 Aug 1975 DV, and was expected to continue for eight weeks. The article noted that the excessive San Fernando Valley heat and smog had been taking a physical toll on the young cast. However, necessary precautions were taken by Jaffe and Ritchie, including air-conditioned dressing rooms and a large stock of fluids, with a medic and a social worker standing by. Tatum O’Neal was not expected on the set until the following week. An article in the 5 Oct 1975 Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported that the baseball diamond, created by production designer Polly Platt, would be removed when filming was completed, as Chatsworth authorities believed the dugouts would become a “lovers’ lane” for the local youth.
       A feature story in the 12 Oct 1975 NYT quoted Ritchie as saying that he expected to shoot 350,000 feet of film for The Bad News Bears, which was the total footage for his previous two pictures combined, due mainly to difficulties in controlling the cast of children. The article also made mention of the children’s proficiency in the use of foul language, particularly that of Tatum O’Neal.
       Little League of Americarica lodged a protest with Paramount over the language used by the children in The Bad News Bears, according to 13 Feb 1976 DV. Paramount Production Vice President Richard Sylbert explained that the film was not about the Little League and therefore considered the protest invalid. “The language is part of the fun of it,” Sylbert added, calling the picture “a charming film.” A spokesman for the Little League did not anticipate an organized protest, as it would only help publicize the film. The release date was tentatively scheduled for Aug 1976, and the film was to preview in Canada on 14 Feb 1976.
       A news item in 16 Mar 1976 DV stated that The Bad News Bears would be the closing event at the Filmex Festival in Los Angeles, and that it was scheduled to open in New York and Los Angeles on 7 Apr 1976.
       The majority of reviews for The Bad News Bears were positive, with equal praise for Ritchie, Lancaster and the cast. While many shared the enthusiasm of the 7 Apr LAT, which described it as “nothing but good news,” several expressed reservations, as in the 26 Apr 1976 Time: “It relies too heavily on the amusement value of hearing little kids cuss like Marines;” and the 12 Apr 1976 Newsweek: “A film that doesn’t really know how to let kids act their age.” Two of the most negative reviews appeared in the 24 May 1976 New Times and the 24 Apr 1976 WSJ, both of which complained that the film depended too heavily on clichéd characterizations and plot devices.
       A news item in 24 Nov 1976 Var reported that Paramount, concerned that the baseball aspect of The Bad News Bears would not be easily understood by many foreign audiences, added a five-minute animated baseball primer at the beginning of the film. It was dubbed in five languages and featured characters that resembled members of the “Bad News Bears.” The short film was produced by Oxford Communications, and included a very brief mention of the upcoming film, King Kong (1976, see entry). According to an article in 15 Sep 1976 Var, Michael Ritchie and Gerry Lewis of CIC, Paramount’s foreign distributor, developed an advertising campaign for Europe that would de-emphasize baseball and focus on the film’s depiction of children as they behave in the absence of adults, including the foul language. The article estimated the film’s current gross earnings at $20 – 30 million since its release. It was also stated that The Bad News Bears was dubbed for its release in Japan, where the film was expected to be a success because of that country’s affinity for baseball.
       A news item in the 10 Mar 1976 HR reported that The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings (1976, see entry) were challenging The Bad News Bears to a baseball game at University of Southern California’s (USC) Dedeaux Field on 15 Jun 1976, to determine which team would be champion of all Hollywood. According to the Aug 1976 Cinemaphile, 3,000 fans were in attendance, as well as several celebrities and cast members from both films. The article described the game as publicity for both Paramount and Universal Pictures; the latter was set to release The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings. Neither Matthau, O’Neal nor Bingo Long star Billy Dee Williams were in attendance. The final score was 5-5. Highlights of the game were broadcast on NBC’s Mike Douglas Show on 1 Jul 1976, according to the 1 Jul 1976 HR.
       The Bad News Bears spawned two sequels: The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977, see entry) and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978, see entry). The 8 Aug 1977 LAT reported that Paramount was planning at least three more sequels, one of which was to take place at the Moscow Olympics. An article in the 30 Oct 1978 HR stated that CBS ordered a 30-minute television comedy series based on the film. The network promised that the series would have the same ethnic mix of children as in the original film. A remake of the film, Bad News Bears (2005, see entry), was directed by Richard Linklater.
       The packaging of The Bad News Bears with its two sequels for sale to television for $18.5 million provoked a lawsuit from Matthau, as reported in 19 Mar 1979 DV. Matthau’s contract entitled him to 15 per cent of gross receipts over $13 million; the film had grossed nearly $25 million at the time of the sale. Both sequels earned considerably less than the original film, but were packaged with the original at only a moderately lower cost. Matthau’s complaint attributed the enormous success of The Bad News Bears to the quality of his performance and his popularity with the public. A news item in 12 Jan 1981 DV announced that a satisfactory settlement had been reached out of court.
       An open letter of protest to the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, which appeared in the 18 Aug 2005 LAT, included the news of the West Los Angeles field, where Bill Lancaster played baseball as a child, having been renamed Bad News Bears Field in 2005 as a tribute to the writer, who died in 1997. The announcement sparked a small controversy among fans of the film, resulting in the series of letters printed in the 25 Aug LAT, including one from the mother of ex-Bear Erin Blunt. Some agreed with the city’s decision while others felt that the name should be reserved for the original location in Chatsworth. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Cinemaphile
Aug 1976.
---
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1975
p. 3.
Daily Variety
13 Feb 1976
p. 8.
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1976.
---
Daily Variety
19 Mar 1979
p. 1, 14.
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1976
p. 3, 23.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1978.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
5 Oct 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Jun 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Apr 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Apr 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Aug 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Aug 2005.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Aug 2005.
---
New Times
24 May 1976.
---
New York Times
7 Apr 1976.
---
New York Times
12 Oct 1975.
---
Newsweek
12 Apr 1976.
---
People
20 Jul 1975.
---
Time
26 Apr 1976.
---
Variety
7 Apr 1976
p. 23.
Variety
15 Sep 1976.
---
Variety
24 Nov 1976.
---
WSJ
24 Apr 1976.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures Presents
A Stanley R. Jaffe Production
A Michael Ritchie Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr and asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus adpt and cond
SOUND
Re-rec mixer
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Make-up
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Asst to the prod
Secy to the dir
Scr supv
Dial coach
Welfare worker
Promotional consideration furnished by
SOURCES
MUSIC
Music Themes from "Carmen," by Georges Bizet.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 April 1976
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 6 April 1976
Los Angeles opening: 7 April 1976
Production Date:
begin 4 August 1975 in Chatsworth, CA
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Movielab
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Morris Buttermaker, a minor-league baseball player turned swimming pool cleaner, arrives at a suburban ballpark and fortifies a can of beer with whiskey for a meeting with City Councilman Bob Whitewood and his son, Toby. Whitewood, having won a class-action suit against the North Valley League, has organized the Bears, a team of League rejects, and he is discreetly paying Buttermaker to be their manager. Miss Cleveland, the League's manager, openly expresses her disapproval of Whitewood's lawsuit and the Bears themselves. When Buttermaker meets the team, he is not encouraged: Rudi Stein is a pitcher who can neither pitch nor catch; Mike Engelberg is a compulsive eater with a caustic personality; Timmy Lupus is withdrawn and has a chronic runny nose; Tanner Boyle is undersized, bigoted and belligerent; Miguel and Jose Agilar speak no English; Regi Tower, Jimmy Feldman, Ahmad Abdul Rahim and Toby Whitewood are enthusiastic but untalented; and Ogilvie is an asthmatic with an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball statistics. At the end of the first practice, Buttermaker finds himself with the worst team in the League and a broken windshield from an errant baseball. Several days later, he gives the team uniforms with the name of their sponsor, “Chico's Bail Bonds,” emblazoned on the back. Every other team in the League sports uniforms with corporate sponsors, such as Pizza Hut and Denny's. During the Bears' final practice, Buttermaker passes out drunk, and the boys express little hope for a good season. The next day, as the teams assemble for the season opening, a boy on a motorcycle rides onto the field, angering Cleveland and Yankees coach Roy Turner. ... +


Morris Buttermaker, a minor-league baseball player turned swimming pool cleaner, arrives at a suburban ballpark and fortifies a can of beer with whiskey for a meeting with City Councilman Bob Whitewood and his son, Toby. Whitewood, having won a class-action suit against the North Valley League, has organized the Bears, a team of League rejects, and he is discreetly paying Buttermaker to be their manager. Miss Cleveland, the League's manager, openly expresses her disapproval of Whitewood's lawsuit and the Bears themselves. When Buttermaker meets the team, he is not encouraged: Rudi Stein is a pitcher who can neither pitch nor catch; Mike Engelberg is a compulsive eater with a caustic personality; Timmy Lupus is withdrawn and has a chronic runny nose; Tanner Boyle is undersized, bigoted and belligerent; Miguel and Jose Agilar speak no English; Regi Tower, Jimmy Feldman, Ahmad Abdul Rahim and Toby Whitewood are enthusiastic but untalented; and Ogilvie is an asthmatic with an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball statistics. At the end of the first practice, Buttermaker finds himself with the worst team in the League and a broken windshield from an errant baseball. Several days later, he gives the team uniforms with the name of their sponsor, “Chico's Bail Bonds,” emblazoned on the back. Every other team in the League sports uniforms with corporate sponsors, such as Pizza Hut and Denny's. During the Bears' final practice, Buttermaker passes out drunk, and the boys express little hope for a good season. The next day, as the teams assemble for the season opening, a boy on a motorcycle rides onto the field, angering Cleveland and Yankees coach Roy Turner. The game begins after the boy is removed. Once the Yankees are winning 26-0, Buttermaker decides to forfeit the game. The boys are humiliated, and Ahmad strips down to his underwear and hides in a tree. The following Monday, Whitewood tells Buttermaker to disband the team. Instead, he visits Amanda Whurlizer, an excellent pitcher who is the daughter of an former girl friend. Buttermaker asks Amanda to join the Bears, but she angrily refuses and tells him to leave. When Toby arrives at the park, he informs Buttermaker that the boys have voted to disband the team. They were taunted all day at school, and Tanner got into a fight with the entire seventh grade. Butter maker refuses to let them quit and sends them out to the field to practice. Turner, who has been watching the Bears, admonishes Buttermaker for not disbanding the team, and Buttermaker informs him that they intend to win the pennant. The Bears lose their second game to the Athletics, 18-0. Buttermaker will not allow the boys to feel bad about their performance and takes them all out for hot dogs. He again tries to coerce Amanda to join the team, this time by offering ballet lessons in exchange, and she accepts. By the next game with Amanda pitching, the Bears have improved dramatically, but still lose to the Mets 2-0. Kelly Leek, the boy on the motorcycle, again visits the field. He's known as a great athlete and, despite his reputation as a delinquent, Buttermaker and Amanda want him on the team. She attempts to recruit Kelly by beating him at air hockey at a local arcade, but she loses and has to go on a date with him. At the park, when Lupus is bullied by Yankees pitcher Joey Turner, Tanner surprises himself by defending his teammate, demonstrating some remorse for the way he himself has abused Lupus in the past. Kelly makes another appearance at the Bears' practice and, after being told by Turner that he has no place on the League, he offers to join the Bears. With both Amanda and Kelly playing, the Bears win their first game, but they still have weaknesses. In spite of this, they qualify for the championship playoffs. Buttermaker, having endured Roy Turner's taunts all season, is anxious to win, and instructs Kelly to intercept any ball he can, which only isolates Kelly from the other team members. The day before the final game, Amanda offers to reunite her mother and Buttermaker. When he declines, she suggests a series of father-daughter activities. His polite refusals turn impolite, and Amanda quietly leaves with tears streaming down her face. The next day, the Yankees and the Bears play for the championship. Roy Turner gathers his team and explains that if they lose this game, it will be a burden they will be forced to live with all their lives. Buttermaker is equally obsessed with winning, which the Bears find disturbing. As the game gets underway, both managers berate their players whenever they commit an error. The tension increases when Amanda is knocked down by a runner and falls on her elbow, resulting in a fistfight among the players. They resume the game, but the two managers argue bitterly over the incident. The Yankees have the lead and Buttermaker berates his players even more harshly; they stare back at him with a look of betrayal. He relents and tells them to just do the best they can. Engelberg is at bat and Joey Turner is pitching for the Yankees. The two trade insults and Joey pitches the ball directly at Engelberg's head. Roy is enraged and slaps his son. Joey's next pitch to Engelberg results in a hit, but when Joey catches the ball, he refuses to throw it. The Bears score and Joey leaves with his mother. When Amanda can no longer pitch, Buttermaker takes her out of the game, replacing her with Rudi, and sends Lupus and Ogilvie out onto the field, ignoring protests from Councilman Whitewood and the boys themselves. The Bears play an inspired game but lose by a single home run. Buttermaker passes out cans of beer to all of his players. Cleveland presents trophies to both teams, and the Yankees give the Bears an insincere apology for underestimating them. Tanner tells them to stick their first-place trophy and their apology up their collective anuses. Lupus throws the Bears' trophy at the Yankees' spokesman and declares, "Just wait 'til next year!" +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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