Damn Yankees (1958): George Abbott and Stanley Donen’s Musical, Starring Gwen Verdon and Tab Hunter

This classic musical “Damn Yankee,” starring Gwen Verdon and Tab Hunter with Ray Walston as the Devil, is the film version of the hit Broadway musical, which ran for an astounding 1019 performances. It’s co-directed by vet George Abbott (who directed it on stage) and Stanley Donen (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Singin’ in the Rain).

Damn Yankees tells the story of Joe Boyd, a middle-aged baseball fanatic who would do anything to see his beloved Washington Senators win. He’s so desperate for the Senators to win, that he sells his soul to the Devil for the chance to become the greatest ballplayer in the world and to lead the Senators out of the cellar into a pennant race with their archrivals, the New York Yankees. When Joe Boyd leaves his loving wife to become Joe Hardy, his victories soon pale as he realizes that what he left behind was as important as what he has achieved. The Devil, not wanting to lose this soul, enlists the help of his top vixen, Lola, to tempt Joe to remain forever young.

In one of those rare instances, the film stars virtually the entire original Broadway cast in this musical adaptation of the novel The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant. Choreographed by Bob Fosse, (who also appears on-screen and un-credited with Gwen Verdon in the number “Who’s Got the Pain,”), the film also stars Russ Brown, Shannon Bolin, Nathaniel Frey, Robert Shafer, James Komack, and Jean Stapleton.

The musical boasts memorable score by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross that includes such hit songs as “Whatever Lola Wants,” “(You’ve Gotta Have) Heart,” and “Two Lost Souls.”

Oscar Context

“Damn Yankees” was nominated for one Oscar, Ray Hindorf’s Scoring, but the winner was Andre Previn for “Gigi,” which swept most of the Oscars in 1958.