Some movies aren't going to change the course of western civilization, aren't going to make any ten-best lists, seem made to get underrated, but everyone can remember them instantly whenever you mention them. My dad called them "beer and pretzels" movies. "Bingo Long" is a perfect example.Resting on the considerable star power of Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones, the film is a highly entertaining story about the closing years of the seperate Negro Baseball League, when black baseball players in the US weren't allowed into the major leagues. From start to finish, from the stars to the bit players, everything works perfectly.
The plot is an excuse to string together incidents, as Bingo (Williams) puts together a barnstorming team to break out from under the monopoly of the league's owners. Williams is dazzling as the charismatic Bingo, who can charm candy away from babies, but has loose principles. Jones plays against that beautifully, as a star pitcher with a strict sense of propriety.
The rest of the cast are note-perfect in their parts, smaller though they are, with Richard Pryor, Tony Burton, and Stan Shaw particularly memorable.
The film manages to be funny while keeping a clear view of what life was like for blacks in the US in 1939, and sad without giving in to being depressing or over-stated.
What's particularly interesting is how the film has stuck around. I first saw it when it came out, in 1976. I just saw it for the second time, since it was released on DVD here in the US. I was astonished at how much I remembered, and how fresh it still seemed.Even is this isn't a film for the ages, it's still a most congenial way to beguile the time.