Sports and comedy mix it up in “Pat and Mike”
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
(1) Spencer Tracy plays sports manager Mike Conovan and Katharine Hepburn plays college coach Pat Pemberton, who becomes a semi-pro athlete (golf & tennis) under Conovan’s guidance. (2) Pat hits a beautiful shot out of the sandtrap during the Women’s National Championship.
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“PAT AND MIKE” – WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION
1952; Blu-ray; Not Rated
Best extra: Only trailers, including one narrated by “new sensation” Aldo Ray, who plays a sweet but dopey young boxer.
CINEMA AND SPORTS fans alike will find lots to enjoy in the new 4K remastering of “Pat and Mike” from the Warner Archive Collection.
Spencer Tracy (sports manager Mike Conovan) and Katharine Hepburn (college athletics coach Pat Pemberton) were a franchise all their own. They made nine films together, three directed by George Cukor including “Pat and Mike.” It’s considered one of their best along with their first, “Woman of the Year” (1942), “Keeper of the Flame” (1943), and “Adam’s Rib” (1949). The groundbreaking comedy-drama “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967), co-starring Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton (Hepburn’s niece), was one of the first films to depict interracial marriage in a positive light. Tracy, who suffered serious bouts of alcoholism throughout his life, died less than two weeks days after filming completed.
The 25-year onscreen/offscreen relationship between Tracy and Hepburn was as legendary as their movies. ‘Kate’s’ first reaction to ‘Spence’ for “Woman of the Year” was decidedly cool. Hollywood anecdotes report her saying, “Mr. Tracy, I’m afraid I’m a bit too tall for you.” His reply, “Don’t worry, I’ll cut you down to my size.” They fell in love, with Hepburn taking care of him through his various relapses. A devout Catholic, Spencer would not divorce his wife. After Louise Tracy died in 1983, Hepburn publicly acknowledged their decades-long affair.
(1) MGM’s “Pat and Mike” was the seventh Tracy and Hepburn film. (2) Coach Pat Pemberton leaves the campus to play a round of golf with her fiancée, college administrator Collier Weld (William Ching), and Mr. & Mrs. Beminger, potential fat-cat donors to the college. (3) Collier tells Pat she can’t wear slacks playing golf. (4) After a miserable round of golf - Pat missed a number of key shots because of Collier’s reproachful eye - she lines up a series of golfballs and hits them back-to-back straight down the practice tee. (5) After the match, Pat talks with golf-pro Charles Barry (Jim Backus).
Written by husband-wife team, Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, who received an Academy Award nomination for the script, “Pat and Mike” showcases Hepburn's sports. As Pat Pemberton, she competes with real-life athletes Babe Didrikson Zaharias, one of the best women golfers ever, as well as Betty Hicks and Helen Dettweiler. She also holds her own with tennis champions Don Budge, Gussie Moran and Alice Marble.
The story begins with Pat and her fiancée, college administrator Collier Weld played by William Ching. Collier is the typical man’s man of the 1940’s-‘50s, who believes a woman’s place is in the home and does what her man tells her. Pat tries to fit the mold, but just cannot do it. She breaks after a disastrous golf game in which Collier tries to impress his boss by letting him win. Afterward, Pat lets fly on the course, where sports manager Mike Conovan notices and tries to recruit her. Resistant at first, Pat eventually succumbs to Mike’s offer to become her agent and trainer. She does well in competitive sports – until Collier begins showing up at the games and she loses her nerve. By then Mike has begun to fall for her, so keeping the two separated becomes a competition as well.
One day Mike’s connection to the mob comes out, when gang members demand that Pat throws a game. Mike refuses; so does Pat, and friction ensues. During these scenes, a young Charles Bronson – listed in credits as Charles Buchinski, his birth name – and Chuck Connors (“The Rifleman”) appear as a thug and police captain.
All’s well that ends well with love and sports meeting in the winner’s circle.
(1&2) Pat hits her golf ball out of the water during the National Women’s amateur championship. (3) During the tournament, Mike Conovan and his partner are impressed with her play and offer to become her agent with a twist.
(1-3) Every time Pat spots Collier in the gallery, her performance nosedives. (4&5) On the final hole, it doesn’t get any better and she loses to real-life professional golfer Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
The Warner Archive Collection delivers a fine 1080p Blu-ray sourced from a new 4K restoration made from the original camera negative (1.37:1 aspect ratio). Film grain is consistent throughout the black-and-white presentation. Detail and contrast is very good. Wide shots and close-ups fare equally well in exterior and interior scenes. Naturally, all dirt and scratches have been removed.
Audio arrives through a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack. As always, dialogue and effects are clearly delivered, with an SDH option available. There’s a nice shift in sound and appearance during the sports competitions providing a you-are-there in the time period sensation.
David Raksin composed the score. His music was used in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” His best-known theme is from “Laura” (1944), with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Director Otto Preminger wanted to use Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” but Raksin convinced him to give him a chance. He got a weekend … during which he received a “Dear John” letter from his wife. Afterward, he said, the melody “wrote itself.”
Known as the “Grandfather of Film Music,” imdb.com reports Raskin also had a run-in with director Alfred Hitchcock, who did not want a score for “Lifeboat” (1944), a film about survivors trapped together after a torpedo sinks their ship during World War II. He felt the audience wouldn’t understand where the music came from. Raskin then replied: “Ask Hitch where the cameras are coming from.”
Rom-coms have a history of successfully combining sports and amour - “Jerry Mcquire,” “Bull Durham,” “Tin Cup,” “Wimbledon” and “Love & Basketball.” They’ve come a long way since “Pat and Mike,” who never even share a kiss. Even so, new viewers will enjoy the Spencer-Hepburn chemistry and classic pitfalls of pro-sports.
— Kay Reynolds
(1) Mike becomes Pat’s agent. (2&3) She’s now playing in a traveling tennis circuit. (4) Pat gives her agent a hug after a match.
(1&2) At San Francisco’s Cow Palace arena, Collier’s curse continues. Pat imagines the net getting taller and taller, and her racket smaller and smaller. (3) Mike tells Pat they are equal partners. (4) Mike’s “anonymous investors” physically threaten him because they want Pat to throw the golf tournament. (5) Pat breaks up the fight and everyone is hauled off to jail. Former professional baseball and basketball player Chuck Connors plays the police captain, and just to the right, a young Charles Bronson as mafia hood Hank Tasling. (6) Pat is torn between the two men in her life.