Pat and Mike [1952]

Kate plays Pat Pemberton, a college physical education teacher who excels at just about every sport there is. She's also a great athletic competitor, except when her overbearing, worrywart fiancé, Collier Weld, is around. (As Weld, William Ching does an admirable job in a thankless role.) All Pat has to do is see Collier's face on the sidelines and her golf swing loses its power; her tennis game goes haywire. It takes crooked sports manager Mike Conovan (Spencer Tracy, of course) to recognize Pat's outstanding talent. He takes her on as his most important client and handles her with the same loving care that he gives to his favorite racehorse. Naturally, Pat and Mike's relationship is destined to overstep its professional boundaries. The mutual attraction grows from the moment they meet. Watching Pat walk away, Mike comments to his partner, "Not much meat on her, but what's there is 'cherce'." The film carries a powerful feminist message, especially considering that it was made in the early 1950s: Pat is undone by Collier, who would rather have her stick to being "the little woman" and forget about succeeding. But with Mike in her corner, Pat can have a great career. Her union with him is a true partnership; everything is, as he says, "Five-oh, five-oh." In the end, he's secure enough to be comfortable as "the man behind the woman." The film features terrific comic performances by Aldo Ray as a bone-headed boxer, a young Charles Bronson (before he changed his name from Buchinski) as a small-time gangster, and Our Gang's Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer as a high-strung bus boy. --Laura Mirsky

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