Why A League Of Their Own Is Madonna’s Best Movie?

In preparation for a new television adaptation Their own league, I finally watched the original 1992 movie. I was fascinated by the jokes of Geena Davis and Lori Petty as sisters Dottie and Kit, and I gasped when Tom Hanks yelled out the infamous line, “There’s no crying in baseball!” It definitely passes the Bechdel test and sheds light on what was little known at the time.

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What really stood out to me was the way Madonna portrayed “All the Way” May. It wasn’t Madonna’s first acting role and it won’t be her last, but it’s her best performance. Before and after Their own leagueMadonna starred in several dubious films – for every Evita as well as Desperately looking for Susanwas body of evidence or Swept away. We don’t associate all of this with Madonna: several films in her filmography were simply not as good for reasons beyond her control. And it does Their own league a very important film in Madonna’s canon: it proves that, given the opportunity, she is a funny, charming, even attention-grabbing actress.

Madonna’s portrayal of May was much more meaningful and fun than it could be in the wrong hands. The bond between May and Doris is one of the best aspects of the movie, and it was helped by Madonna and O’Donnell’s real-life friendship formed backstage when O’Donnell is known to sing one of his songs to her every day to tease her.

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Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell in A League of Their Own
©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection.

Their chemistry helped the film click, but Madonna did more than sell us the connections between these women. Madonna drew on her New York roots to play New Yorker May, imbuing her character with a wisdom and audacity that left no doubt about who was in control when she was in the room. Madonna has spoken phrases that could be considered disgusting, such as when she tries on her baseball uniform for the first time and realizes that “there are no pockets for my cigarettes.”

She also took May’s explicit sexuality and handled it in classic Madonna fashion: leaning on it while putting it on her own terms. She knows that men like to stare at her, but she controls how and when they look at her; something she has had a lot of experience creating and experimenting with throughout her musical career. Her ability to use this while playing Mei keeps her sexy without even feeling exploitative.

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Madonna in “A League of Their Own”
©Comedy Partners/Courtesy Everett Collection.

Finally, Madonna-as-May exhibits a certain restraint that gives way just before her character crosses the line of vulgarity. Madonna isn’t just a spectacular bombshell, even in that scene where she goes to confession and annoys the priest with her obscene stories – she’s also hysterically funny and knows when to lean on her comic moment. Mei from Madonna is fun, endlessly charismatic: she makes the swing dance effortlessly; her joy is infectious.

Shooting a baseball movie was not a big success for Madonna. Geena Davis was not the original choice for the role of Dottie Hinson – Debra Winger was originally cast, but she dropped out when she heard that Madonna would be joining the cast. Winger thought Madonna would turn the film into an Elvis Presley film, and she later went on to criticize Madonna for “not being able to play catch”. But Madonna worked hard on this film, and while baseball may have challenged her, it also played to her strengths in a way that has never been seen in any of her other films. It may not be the role for which she is best remembered, but it’s safe to say that Winger’s concerns were misplaced. Madonna is an integral part Their own league – and the film itself is an important part of understanding what Madonna is capable of as an actress.

Before you go, click here to see which cast Their own league it seems currently.

Geena Davis: What The Cast Of 'A League Of Their Own' Looks Like Now

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