Watch Jonathan Winters’ Last Performance, in Which He Plays Babe Ruth

Slate's Culture Blog
July 15 2013 3:44 PM

Watch Jonathan Winters’ Last Performance

winters_ruth
Jonathan Winters

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The last IMDb credit for the late great Jonathan Winters will probably be the voice work he does as Papa Smurf in Smurfs 2, which comes out at the end of the month. But his final on-screen credit is for “The Babe and the Kid,” in which he offers an irreverent, partly improvised take on George Herman Ruth.

As Winters’ co-writer on the short film, Dan Pasternack, recounts over at the Comic’s Comic, the idea for the movie was hatched shortly after Winters’ wife of more than 60 years, Eileen, passed away. He and Pasternack spoke on the phone often during the ensuing weeks, and once, when Pasternack asked him how he was doing, Winters said, “Well, I promised my kids I wouldn’t kill myself in the house because it would make it too difficult to sell.” Pasternack, trying to cheer up the always darkly comic Winters, asked his friend if there was anything he had always wanted to do. Winters said that he had always wanted to play Ruth. The two quickly worked up a script, Pasternack hired a small cast and crew, and they shot the 7-minute movie in a day.

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The production values aren’t terribly high, to be sure, but give it a minute: Once he gets going, Winters’ wit comes through, as always.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.