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When Major Leaguers Play Themselves: “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round”

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By Matt Singer

In honor of the start of the 2008 baseball season, will be paying tribute to the national pastime’s long relationship with the movies every day this week by giving you everything you’d ever want to know about the odd little quasi-autobiographical ditties in which baseball players have played themselves. Peanuts and crackerjacks not included.

04012008_manhattanmerrygoround.jpg“Manhattan Merry-Go-Round” (1937)
Directed by Charles Reisner
As Himself: Joe DiMaggio

Game Summary: This mostly tepid musical revolves around a bunch of mobsters who take over a record company and then use their muscle to convince a bunch of popular acts to play for them, which precipitates musical performances in the film from Gene Autry, Cab Calloway and Louis Prima, who actually performs on a working merry-go-round planted on the middle of a nightclub dance floor. DiMaggio’s in the wrong place at the wrong time; he shows up late to a radio show and is mistaken for his own replacement (cue the clown hooter). Unable to explain the mix-up to the Italian stereotype who runs the radio show’s orchestra, he reluctantly croons a few lines of “Have You Ever Been In Heaven?” before the mistake is clarified, a few shots of the 1936 World Series flash and DiMaggio makes an early trip to the showers.

On-Field Achievements: The Yankee Clipper is best remembered for his remarkable 56-game hitting streak from May 15 to July 16, 1941. To date, no one’s even come within 10 games of eclipsing the mark. DiMaggio played 13 seasons, all of them as an All Star, took the Yankees to the World Series 10 times and won nine of them.

On-Screen Achievements: …are, in contrast, comparatively mild. I wouldn’t want to hear DiMaggio sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” let alone warble a rendition of a Peter Tinturin and Jack Lawrence ballad. He doesn’t fare much better when he’s not singing either; DiMaggio isn’t even very convincing signing autographs, something he should have been able to do without much direction.

Errors Committed: Only those against better judgment.

Discoveries: DiMaggio met his first wife, actress Dorothy Arnold, while on the set of “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round.” The marriage was as uneven as DiMaggio’s performance. He’d later go on to marry and then divorce Marilyn Monroe, all in less than a year.

Substitutions: Joltin’ Joe has never gotten his own film, but his likeness appeared on screen throughout the years whenever someone makes a movie about Monroe, such as the Emmy-nominated HBO biopic “Norma Jean & Marilyn” where two different actresses played Monroe, before (Ashley Judd) and after (Mira Sorvino) her rise to stardom. There, DiMaggio is played by Peter Dobson. His most famous on screen appearance so far has been in name only, in the lines of Paul Simon’s song “Mrs. Robinson” from Mike Nichols “The Graduate,” which asks “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? / A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” Perhaps, but when Joe himself sang in “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round,” the only thing he was turning was stomachs in the audience.

Final Score: As performances — and movies — go, DiMaggio and “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round” is a golden sombrero.

[Photo: Poster for “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round,” Republic Pictures, 1937]

Part 1: Babe Ruth in “Headin’ Home”
Part 3: Lou Gehrig in “Rawhide”
Part 4: Jackie Robinson in “The Jackie Robinson Story”
Part 5: Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in “Safe at Home!”; Keith Hernandez on “Seinfeld”

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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