Kill the Umpire

Kill the Umpire is a 1950 baseball comedy film starring William Bendix and Una Merkel, directed by Lloyd Bacon and written by Frank Tashlin.

Kill the Umpire
Directed byLloyd Bacon
Produced byJohn Beck
Written byFrank Tashlin
StarringWilliam Bendix
Una Merkel
Ray Collins
Gloria Henry
Richard Taylor
Connie Marshall
Music byHeinz Roemheld
CinematographyCharles Lawton, Jr.
Edited byCharles Nelson
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • April 27, 1950 (1950-04-27)
Running time
78 min.
CountryUnited States

Bendix two years earlier had portrayed baseball player Babe Ruth in the biographical film The Babe Ruth Story. One of the ballplayers in this picture is played by Jeff Richards, billed as Richard Taylor, a minor-league ballplayer before becoming an actor.


Bill Johnson is a former baseball player whose fanatical devotion to the game has cost him several jobs. He remains steadfast in one thing: he hates umpires. Matters are complicated by the fact that his father-in-law Evans (Ray Collins) is a retired umpire.

During a period of unemployment, needing a job to support his loyal wife Betty (Una Merkel) and two daughters, Johnson is forced by his father-in-law to matriculate in an umpire school. Johnson initially tries to get himself expelled by school director Jimmy O'Brien (William Frawley), but eventually comes to enjoy his new job. He becomes an ump in the minor leagues, where blurred vision, caused by using the wrong eyedrops, causes him to see everything twice, earning him a nickname as "Two-Call" Johnson.

When he calls a visiting team’s player safe at home plate, the crowd accuses him of dishonesty, not aware that the catcher actually dropped the ball when the runner slid into home plate, leading to a near-riot during which the home team’s catcher is knocked out cold. Johnson must disguise himself as a woman, and engage in several madcap subterfuges, to get to an important game on time, but his reputation is restored when the injured catcher recovers and praises him for his honesty as an umpire. The crowd accepts this, although quickly reversing its opinion again after Johnson, inevitably, makes another call they do not like.

The film's climax is a manic chase scene, scripted by animator and future Jerry Lewis director Frank Tashlin.


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