Damn Yankees (1958)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Damn Yankees is a frothy, faithful adaptation of the 1956 Broadway hit. In an amusing slant on the "Faust" legend, aging baseball fan Joe Boyd (Robert Schafer) is given an opportunity to lead his beloved Washington Senators to victory by a devilish gent named Applegate (Ray Walston). Boyd is transformed into handsome young "Shoeless" Joe Hardy from Hannibal, Mo. (and in the process, the part is taken over by Tab Hunter, who's better than everyone said he was back in 1958). Joe becomes the Senators' star player, but at the price of his immortal soul; he isn't terribly worried, however, since he's built an escape clause into his contract with Applegate. To see that Joe doesn't get a chance to exercise that clause, Applegate sends his luscious assistant Lola (Gwen Verdon) to seduce the ballplayer. This effort doesn't work, but Applegate still manages to cause Joe to lose his chance at salvation. But there is still a ray of hope--if Hardy can win the deciding pennant game, he'll be able to foil Applegate's master plan of causing the Senators to lose. With Lola's aid, Joe gives the devil more than his due. The principal selling angle of Damn Yankees, beyond the presence of Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston delightfully recreating their stage roles, are the wonderful Richard Adler/Jerry Ross songs, including "You've Gotta Have Heart" and "What Lola Wants, Lola Gets." Based on the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, the film (like the play before it) unfortunately throws away Wallop's wryly ironic climax; as a result, the last scenes appear rushed and haphazard. But why quibble? Damn Yankees is and always was a rock-solid piece of entertainment, as proven by its recent S.R.O. Broadway revival. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Classics , Comedy , Drama , Musical & Performing Arts , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Home Video


Tab Hunter
as Joe Hardy
Ray Walston
as Mr. Applegate
Russ Brown
as Benny Van Buren
Shannon Bolin
as Mrs. Meg Boyd
Rae Allen
as Gloria Thorpe
Robert Shafer
as Joe Boyd
Jean Stapleton
as Sister Miller
Bob Fosse
as Mambo Dancer
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Damn Yankees

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (5)

As a cinemusical, Yankees manages to steal home by a wide margin.

Full Review… | March 16, 2011
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

The Damn Yankees team, which ran the score high for three seasons in Broadway's legit ballpark, was reassembled to go to bat in this sparkling film version.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

A musical lumbered with too much plot.

January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Not the equal of Stanley Donen's parallel project, The Pajama Game, but a fine and vigorous film of the Broadway musical nonetheless.

Full Review… | January 10, 2004
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Miss Verdon has the sort of fine, fresh talent that the screen badly needs these days.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

The problem lies with Tab Hunter in the difficult leading role: to put it mildly, he lacks pizzazz. There's still a lot of fun to be gleaned, though: Gwen Verdon is a knockout as Lola, and Ray Walston is arguably the definitive movie Devil, Mr Applegate.

Full Review… | May 12, 2014
Radio Times

Audience Reviews for Damn Yankees


A middle aged man makes a deal with devil to help his favorite baseball team win. Witty, colorful musical is lot of fun with stand-out performances (Ray Walston especially) and great dancing. Not every musical number hits the mark, and the ending is a bit awkward, but you'll hardly notice.

Tim Henry
Tim Henry

Very entertaining, not a good musical per se, but I still enjoyed it a lot. I think they needed a better seductress than Gwen Verdon.

Matt Heiser
Matt Heiser

Overbright, overdone version of the stage play. The upcoming remake can only be an improvement.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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