Period Yankees or Forget It

Variety‘s Michael Fleming posted a story last night about Jim Carrey and Jake Gyllenhaal being attached to star in a “contemporized” musical remake of Damn Yankees, which opened as a Broadway musical in 1955 before the screen version, directed by Stanley Donen and George Abbott, opened in 1958.

Carey would play Mr. Applegate, i.e., the Devil, and Gyllenhaal would play the dual role of Joe Boyd and Joe Hardy. The plot is about Applegate offering Boyd, a middle-aged baseball fan, a chance to become a suddenly younger man and a gifted ball player (with the last name of Hardy) who could join his favorite team, the Washington Senators, and help them out of a slump and possibly win the pennant.

New Line would fund and distribute, according to Fleming. Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel are set to write the script with the film to be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Hairspray). The plan, said Fleming, is “to get the Ganz and Mandel script before meeting directors and actresses who’ll want to play Lola.”

The amusing part of Fleming’s story, presumably fed to him by one of the players, is that “the trick” in making this new Damn Yankees work will be “finding a balance that retains the show’s classic tunes while injecting a contemporary feel on a musical that is firmly rooted in the 1950s.”

Are Lowell and Babloo listening? There’s absolutely no way to contemporize Damn Yankees. It’s a very old-fashioned, 55 year-old musical that seethes with the mood and attitudes of Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s America — a way of living and thinking and dreaming that is long gone, up in smoke and dead, dead, deader-than-dead.

You either have to do it as a full-on period musical (which would actually be pretty cool, now that I think of it) or not at all. Because those songs (Whatever Lola Wants, Goodbye Old Girl, Six Months Out of Every Year, You Gotta Have Heart) are timepieces that have no connection to Obama America…none. The idea could be updated and “contemporized,” but the songs are impossible.

On top of which Damn Yankees has been done to death by community and high-school theatres in every corner of the country for the last 40 or 50 years so doing a movie version is almost like re-making Arsenic and Old Lace.

  • dukedog

    I’m with you, straight on period piece or just don’t even go there. It has potential for coolness.

  • actionman

    i wonder who they’ll get to direct this?

  • BurmaShave

    If it’s Mandel & Ganz, maybe Ron Howard? Talk about a period piece.

  • Jeremy Fassler

    People have tried to make Damn Yankees contemporary and it damn well doesn’t work. I know of a production at Reprise! a few years back which changed the team from the Washington Senators to the Los Angeles Dodgers. This doesn’t work, not just because it made the story contemporary–but because the Dodgers and Yankees don’t even play in the same league!!! Get your facts straight, will ya?

    Damn Yankees is a relic and it should be left on the shelf. There are far more interesting musicals I’d like to see put on film. What’s happening with Sam Mendes’ film of Follies?

  • scooterzz

    you are absolutely right about it being a period piece….and please, god, don’t let rene zellwegger or catherine zita jones play lola….

  • Sabina E

    This is so stupid.

  • corey3rd

    Does anyone care enough about the Washington Nationals to see a musical about them? And seeing how the Yankees have paid over a billion dollars in salary and haven’t won a World Series in 7 seasons while the RedSox have claimed 2 – why not mix it up and have the RedSox be the evil team and Joe be the guy who tries to help the Yankees win a World Series? Maybe he can use the cream and the clear to become youthful? Any updating of Damn Yankees becomes about the Roids era.

  • DeafBrownTrashPunk

    This is so stupid.

  • Edward

    Late in the game, but agreeing that updating it is DUMB. Like Jeremy Fassler said, there are plenty of other musicals out there. I’d rather see a gritty remake of West Side Story than this. The film version, as Jeffrey has said, is so sanitized.

  • Nate West

    “Because those songs (Whatever Lola Wants, Goodbye Old Girl, Six Months Out of Every Year, You Gotta Have Heart) are timepieces that have no connection to Obama America…none.”

    We’ve got hope

    We don’t sit around and mope

    Not a solitary sob do we heave

    Mister, ’cause we’ve got hope!

    Yes, we can!

  • Circumvrent

    There’s no point in updating it – not only because of the excellent points corey3rd makes, but because baseball is no longer the the national pastime/phenomenon it was 55 years ago. If you really wanted to make a “faithful” version of the show, Joe would be a NASCAR driver.

    And there’s no point in doing a throwback either, because the bottom line is that Damn Yankees isn’t a particularly good show – it’s overly long and non-sensical and there wasn’t anything new about it even when Eisenhower was President. There are tons more musicals more worthy than this one – ones with better takes and better chances of being successful. Though it might be fun to see Salma Hayek vamping it up as Lola.

  • D.Z.

    I’m guessing the appeal of the original film to an audience of that time was the word “Damn” in the title…

  • BurmaShave

    Well after all, you are a moron…

  • free games

    you are absolutely right about it being a period piece