‘The Bad News Bears’ at 40

I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw The Bad News Bears. It was just one of those movies that was ingrained in my psyche. I do remember specifically wanting to emulate Amanda, Tatum O’Neal’s character. I even took her dialogue and made it into a monologue for any theater auditions I had cause I loved it THAT MUCH.

An insult that I believed was the height of sophistication…

If you’re not familiar, The Bad News Bears, made in 1976, follows a little league baseball team managed by an unenthusiastic, alcoholic coach,  played by Walter Matthau. The team is made up of the “losers,” the ones no other team wanted. They are the ultimate underdogs.

You know it’s a top team if they’re sponsored by “Chico’s Bail Bonds”

In April, the film celebrated its 40th anniversary. The NY Daily News wrote a great piece about the film in which the author spoke with prolific producer Stanley Jaffe, as well as actors Tatum O’Neal, Jackie Earle Haley, Charlie Matthau, Erin Blunt, and David Pollock. It was eye opening to hear the actors speak about the making of the film.

Here are a just a few reasons you should give the Bears a try!


The movie really only works with Walter Matthau. Matthau had already won an academy award and was well established; yet, he was the third choice to play Morris Buttermaker. In front of him were actors Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty. Both turned down the part and thus the part went to Matthau, who apparently took to the kids right away and knew how to have fun on set. His effortless humor and curmudgeon aura were perfect for Buttermaker, or as Amanda calls him, Boilermaker.


Tatum O’Neal was fresh off her Academy Award win for Paper Moon which she made with her father, Ryan O’Neal and Director Peter Bogdonavich. She spoke in the article about her fear in making The Bad News Bears. What she loved most about the experience was working with Walter Matthau. I, of course, wanted to be Amanda. She was tough and feminine and so sophisticated! I mean, she got to sell star maps on the street BY HERSELF.

The height of pre-teen sophistication…

Jackie Earle Haley, who I discussed in my post on Breaking Away, is also notable as Kelly Leak. He was only 14 when he made the film, but he seemed like the essence of cool. He was also the bad boy, but he had a good heart in the end. In the Daily News article, Haley said he still gets approached by fans because of his part. He also spoke about what it was like to be around Matthau…

“There were actually some times where he’d[Matthau] pop a can of Olympia beer open, like mid-day, and if I was sitting next to him, he’d go, ‘Here, you want a sip?'” says Haley, who was 14 when the movie was filmed. “Just like at the end of the movie. It was hilarious “(Jackie Earle Haley).

The Coolest Kid in Town


Unlike many of today’s comedies, this film was fully scripted. Penned by Bill Lancaster, the son of famous actor Burt Lancaster, there were some wonderful zingers! Some of my favorite lines:

Quite possibly the best retort for those   arrogant Yankees.


The film didn’t always end the way it does now. They actually filmed an alternate ending with a different outcome to their last game. Stanley Jaffe put it best when he said, “It’s not about winning. It’s about trying. One person wins. But everybody can try and that’s what this picture is to me – everybody trying (Jaffe).”


There’s also a great scene between Matthau and O’Neal where she’s basically trying to get him to hang out with her and he tells her essentially that if he wanted her company, he would’ve looked her up years ago. The scene is completely understated and that only makes it more powerful – that tear going down Buttermaker’s cheek always gets me.

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Aw, Buttermaker…


That’s what I think I related to the most as a kid. All of the players on the team had their own quirks that made them different. They were the underdogs and you couldn’t help rooting for them. This is still a lesson that needs to be taught, especially to young people.

Maybe they shouldn’t of been drinking though…haha


Doesn’t Charlie Matthau look EXACTLY like his father now??

Charlie Matthau photographed at little league fields in Palisades Park. Charlie played for the A’s in the film. Portraits of actors in the film The Bad News Bears. This year is the 40th Anniversary, the movie came out in 1976. Palisades Park, CA. March 22, 2016. (Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News)

One of the other supporting actors, who played Ogilvie, was also known for his roles in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Woody Allen’s Love and Death. He has since stopped acting, but if you know those other films, you know he was talented!


The film was a major critical and box office success and it’s one of my personal favorites. It certainly shaped who I was as a young person. Now, as an adult, I think I love it even more – the messages, the characters, the humor! If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat – and I swear, you don’t even have to like baseball!

Vintage trailer below:




Breaking Away: A Forgotten Classic

I can’t quite remember when I first saw 1979’s Breaking Away, though I do have specific memories of my dad and brother reenacting lines from the movie – specifically Daniel Stern chirping “What’s your major?” and Paul Dooley ranting “Refund! Refund!”

The film always resonated with me, even as a child. But, re-watching the movie as an adult turned out to be a totally different experience. I related so heavily to the characters, even though you could make the case that the film is very much from a male point of view. The female roles in the film are very limited and not really very important. But, great stories and likable characters transcend gender and this film has both.

In case you haven’t seen it, Breaking Away, directed by Peter Yates and written by Steve Tesich, follows a group of four boys just out of high school in Bloomington, Indiana. They’re not in college and they’re not working. They’re sort of just bumming around – swimming in the quarry, making fun of the college kids, and generally trying to figure out what they want to do next.

Our protagonist is Dave (Dennis Christopher), an idealistic young man obsessed with Italian culture and their cycling team. His parents, played by the wonderful Paul Dooley and Barbara Barrie, are starting to wonder what he’s doing. Side note: Apparently, Barbara Barrie was essential to getting the film made. At the time, she was the biggest name in the cast. Anyway, Dave is in love with Katherine, a college girl. Intimidated by her, he pretends to be Italian and names himself Enrico. No doubt, it catches up to him.

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His friends are Mike (a young Dennis Quaid), Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley), and Cyril (Daniel Stern). Mike was the high school quarterback. He’s always looking for a fight, something to prove he’s worth just as much as college kids. Moocher is in love with Nancy, although he lies to his friends constantly, telling them, “He’s not seeing her anymore.” Cyril is sort of the one left out to dry, so to speak. He doesn’t really get much of his own story. But, the story he has Daniel Stern makes the most of.


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There’s so much to discuss about the narrative of the film. What I connected to when I recently re-watched it was Dave’s journey and loss of innocence. Dave idolizes this Italian cycling team, but when he finally meets them, they’re assholes – further backing up the old adage “you should never meet your heroes.” His idealism is so intensely relatable and its dissolution is heartbreaking.

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What this film also comments on is the distinction between the classes. Dave’s family is nowhere near rich and Dave’s group of friends are dubbed the cutters by the college kids, not because they cut themselves. In this, cutters is just another word for townies, locals, outcasts. Dave’s dad (Paul Dooley) was working at Dave’s age and never had the option of college, so there’s some resentment there, but at heart, he wants his son to be happy.

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At its heart, the film is about friendship. As confused as these boys are, they have each other to back each other up, to figure their lives out.

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They all get a little hope for the future by the end – Dave tells Katherine the truth, Mike makes up with his brother and Moocher gets married. But, Cyril…well, Cyril gets nothing! I’m sure he does get something – there just wasn’t enough time in the movie for it.

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The end of the film shows the boys in the little 500 bike race in Indiana and I dare you to not cheer for them! The elation of the film’s conclusion is infectious.


If you’ve never seen Breaking Away, I highly recommend giving it a watch. It’ll make you laugh and cry and cheer – everything a movie is supposed to do! Also, the film won the Academy Award for best screenplay, so…

Vintage trailer below: