- Cobb (film)
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ron Shelton Produced by David V. Lester
Written by Al Stump (book and article)
Ron Shelton (screenplay)
Starring Tommy Lee Jones
Music by Elliot Goldenthal Cinematography Russell Boyd Editing by Kimberly Ray
Studio Regency Enterprises
Distributed by Warner Bros. Release date(s) December 2, 1994 Running time 128 min. Country United States Language English Box office $1,007,600
Cobb is a 1994 biopic starring Tommy Lee Jones as the famed baseball player Ty Cobb. It was written and directed by Ron Shelton and was based on a book by Al Stump. The original music score was composed by Elliot Goldenthal.
Sportswriter Al Stump (Robert Wuhl) is hired in 1959 as ghostwriter of an authorized autobiography of the great Tyrus Raymond "Ty" Cobb, one of the best baseball players of all time. Now 72 and in failing health, Cobb (Tommy Lee Jones) wants an official biography to "set the record straight" before he dies.
Cobb wants a sanitized hagiography which will present him virtually without flaws. Such books were common in earlier decades and the public images of many players (such as Babe Ruth, whom Cobb strongly resented, but respected as a player), had been shaped by such coverage.
Stump arrives at Cobb's Lake Tahoe estate to write the official life story of the first baseball player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He finds a continually-drunken, misanthropic, bitter racist who abuses his biographer as well as everyone else he comes in contact with. Although Cobb's home is luxurious, it is without heat, power and running water due to long-running violent disputes between Cobb and utility companies. Cobb also rapidly runs through domestic workers, hiring and firing them in quick succession.
Although Cobb is seriously ill and prone to frequent physical breakdown, he retains considerable strength and also keeps several loaded firearms within easy reach at almost all times, making the outbreak of violent confrontation always an immediate possibility in his presence.
Cobb and Stump eventually decide to travel together cross-country to the Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, New York, where many players from Cobb's era attend, and then on to Cobb's native Georgia, where his estranged daughter continues to live. After spending a few months with Cobb and absorbing considerable abuse, Stump is torn between writing the book that Cobb wants and writing his own book on Cobb which will reveal his true highly abrasive nature. Cobb begins to regard Stump as a friend of sorts; it is clear his conduct has driven away virtually all his legitimate friends and family.
Thus, Stump writes two books simultaneously: the puff piece Cobb expects, and his own, sensational, merciless account which will reveal the true Cobb, warts and all. Stump plans to complete Cobb's whitewashed version while the old man is still alive, guaranteeing his payment for the autobiography project, letting Cobb die happy, and then issue the hard-hitting followup after Cobb dies. At one point, after a long night contending with the raging Cobb, Stump passes out and Cobb discovers his notes for his no-punches-pulled version, bringing on an epic explosion from Cobb.
The film concludes with the news that Cobb has died and we see several scenes from Cobb's playing career, with Stump gaining a grudging respect for the player's legendary intensity and fearsome competitive fire, and an understanding the murder of Cobb's father may have been partly responsible for his antagonistic personality. The film ends with Stump conflicted in his opinion of Cobb: whether respect for his playing accomplishments can outweigh his repellent personal conduct. In the end, Stump decides to publish the whitewashed version of Cobb's life, mainly out of respect for Cobb's memory and his belief in redemption.
- Tommy Lee Jones as Ty Cobb
- Robert Wuhl as Al Stump
- Lolita Davidovich as Ramona
- Lou Myers as Willie
- William Utay as Jameson
- J. Kenneth Campbell as William Herschel Cobb
- Rhoda Griffis as Amanda Chitwood Cobb
- Roger Clemens as Opposing pitcher
- Stephen Mendillo as Mickey Cochrane
- Tommy Bush as Rogers Hornsby
- Stacy Keach, Sr. as Jimmie Foxx
- Crash Davis as Sam Crawford
- Rath Shelton as Paul Waner
- Jim Shelton as Lloyd Waner
- Reid Cruickshanks as Pie Traynor
- Eloy Casados as Louis Prima
- Paula Rudy as Keely Smith
- Bradley Whitford as Process Server
- Brian Patrick Mulligan as Charlie Chaplin
- Jimmy Buffett as Heckler
Baseball scenes were filmed at Birmingham's Rickwood Field, which stood in for Philadelphia's Shibe Park and Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. Scenes also were filmed in Cobb's actual hometown of Royston, Georgia.
Much of the Cobb location filming was done in Northern Nevada. The hotel check-in was at the Morris Hotel on Fourth Street in Reno. Casino, outdoor and entry shots were done outside Cactus Jack's Hotel and Casino in Carson City and outside the then-closed, now-reopened (2007) Doppelganger's Bar in Carson City.
The late baseball announcer Ernie Harwell, a member of the Hall of Fame, is featured as emcee at a Cooperstown, New York awards banquet. Real-life sportswriters Allan Malamud, Doug Krikorian, and Jeff Fellenzer and boxing publicist Bill Caplan appear in the movie's opening and closing scenes at a Santa Barbara bar as Stump's friends and fellow scribes. Carson City free-lance photographer Bob Wilkie photographed many still scenes for Nevada Magazine, the Associated Press, and the Nevada Appeal.
Tommy Lee Jones was shooting this film when he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Fugitive. Since his head was partially shaved in the front for his role as the balding, 72 year old Cobb, the actor made light of the situation in his acceptance speech: "All a man can say at a time like this is, 'I am not really bald,'" Jones said. He added, "But I do have work." In addition to his partially shaved head, Jones also endured a broken ankle, suffered while practicing Cobb's distinctive slide.
The film shows Cobb sharpening his spikes as a means to keep infielders from tagging him out as he ran the bases, and was accused of spiking several players who tried. Cobb, however, always denied ever spiking anyone on purpose.
Tyler Logan Cobb, a descendant of Cobb's, played "Young Ty."
Controversy over Sportswriter Al Stump
In 2010, an article by William R. "Ron" Cobb (no relation to Ty Cobb) in The National Pastime, official publication of the Society for American Baseball Research, accused Al Stump of extensive forgery of Cobb-related documents and diaries and even of having falsely claimed to possess a shotgun used by Cobb's mother to kill his father. The shotgun later came into the hands of noted memorabilia collector Barry Halper, but in reality Cobb's father had been killed by a pistol. The article further accused Stump of numerous false statements about Cobb, most of which were sensationalistic in nature and intended to cast Cobb in an unflattering light.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone hailed it as "one of the year's best" and Charles Taylor of Salon included it on his list of the best films of the decade. Others took a harsher view of the picture. Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a 'D', claiming it to be a "noisy, cantankerous buddy picture" and presented Cobb as little more than a "septuagenarian crank." He noted that while the film had constant reminders of Cobbs records, it had little actual baseball in it, besides one flashback where Cobb is seen getting on base, then stealing third and home, and instigating a brawl with the opposing team. He explained: "By refusing to place before our eyes Ty Cobb's haunted ferocity as a baseball player, it succeeds in making him look even worse than he was."
The film opened in limited release in December 1994. It earned a reported $1,007,583 at the U.S. box office.
Films directed by Ron Shelton 1980s 1990s 2000s
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