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Field of Dreams is a movie about a farmer who becomes convinced by a mysterious voice that he is supposed to construct a baseball diamond in his corn field. It stars Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, Gaby Hoffmann, Ray Liotta, Timothy Busfield, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, and Frank Whaley.
The movie was directed and adapted by Phil Alden Robinson from the novel Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
The character played by Burt Lancaster and Frank Whaley, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, was a real baseball player. The background of the character is based on his true life, with a few factual liberties taken for artistic reasons.
The fictional author Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) is based on the reclusive author J. D. Salinger. Salinger was the author sought out by the main character in the original novel. In 1947, the real Salinger wrote a story called A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All, featuring a character named Ray Kinsella. Also, a minor character named Richard Kinsella appeared in Salinger's most famous work, The Catcher in the Rye.
The restored relationship between protagonist Kinsella and his father is notable for making male viewers cry.
The baseball field built for the film has become an attraction with the same name.
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is an easygoing guy who married his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan), and bought a farm in Iowa. At the movie's beginning, Ray is out in his cornfields at dusk, trying his best to be a farmer. In the corn, he hears a whispering voice say, "If you build it, he will come." After hearing the phrase several more times while his family does not, he begins to ask other farmers if they hear similar voices. All the other farmers think Ray has possibly lost his sanity.
One day, Ray hears the voice again, but this time sees a vision. He sees a baseball field instead of his cornfield and sees "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) standing in the field. Ray tells Annie that the message means he must uproot most of his lucrative crop field to put in a baseball diamond so Jackson will come back from the dead and be able to play again, after being suspended from baseball in the 1920s. Annie is skeptical but tells him to follow the vision, after Ray convinces her that his father never did one spontaneous thing in his life. As he begins to uproot his crops, Ray tells his daughter, Karin, that Jackson was one of the eight infamous "Black Sox" members from the 1919 Chicago White Sox team who threw the World Series. Other farmers and residents watch in shock as Ray uproots his crop. After months of work, the field is built... but no one comes. A whole year passes, shown by the director by the changing of seasons, and the bills begin to pile up as less crop to sell means much less money for the Kinsella family.
One night the next summer, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson appears in the field. Ray goes out and meets him and answers Jackson's "Can you pitch?" query by hitting the mound, saying "I'm pitching to Shoeless Joe Jackson," and serving up several pitches that Jackson belts. This scene is in silence, creating a mood of awe. Ray is shocked but overjoyed at the supernatural happening. After they're done, "Shoeless" Joe walks into the corn again and vanishes, after asking Ray "Is this heaven?" He returns later and brings friends with him to play—other members of the 1919 team. As the bills continue to mount for the Kinsellas, Annie's brother, Mark (Timothy Busfield), tells Ray that he will soon go bankrupt and must sell the farm, as he, and many others, are unable to see the mass of deceased baseball players taking themselves to the field.
One night, Ray hears the Voice again, this time telling him to "Ease His Pain." On a hunch, he decides that the "him" refers to prominent '60's author Terence Mann (James Earl Jones). Ray drives from Iowa to Boston to meet with Mann, without knowing why or what to do. Mann is very abrasive at first, as he wants no visitors, but Ray soon convinces him to simply go to a baseball game at Fenway Park. At the park, Mann expresses his frustration that people still turn to him for answers, although his time as a leader (the 60s) has passed. While sitting at Fenway, the Voice speaks again, telling Ray to "Go the Distance." On the scoreboard, Ray sees what no one else can, statistics for a 1920s minor leaguer named Archibald "Moonlight" Graham from Minnesota, who played in one Major League game with the New York Giants, but never got to bat. Ray asks Mann about the scoreboard, but Mann claims not to have seen anything.
Ray drops Mann off back in Boston and thanks him for his time, unsure of where Mann fits into things. As Ray starts to leave, Mann suddenly steps out into the street in front of the car and says "Moonlight Graham" out loud, alerting Ray to the fact that he did indeed see the scoreboard. He then repeats, "go the distance", confirming he heard the voice as well. Mann says he thinks the newest message means to go to Minnesota and find Graham, who will now be an old man. The two make the long journey by van, bonding in the process.
On the trip, Ray explains that his father was an avid baseball fan (and player). His father's favorite player was "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. In Ray's angst ridden teenage years, he refused to play catch with his father and finally told his dad, "I can't respect anyone whose hero was a criminal" before walking out (this insult from Ray had to do with Jackson's involvement with the 1919 Black Sox scandal).
The pair arrive in Minnesota, and ask around for Graham. They find out much about him (through old friends and library articles), only to discover that he was a town doctor who died several years ago. Late that night, Ray is walking around in the town, and finds that he has somehow been transported to 1972 (as evidenced by the "Godfather" movie marquee, a Nixon re-election poster, and a 1972 license plate), when Graham was still alive. He sees Graham out for a walk—recognizing him by the umbrella people had said he always carried—and approaches him. Graham (Burt Lancaster) is a kind man, who says he wishes his time in the majors would have led to just one at bat, during which he could wink at a Major League pitcher, and make him think he (Graham) knows something the pitcher doesn't. Graham then says he can't travel to Iowa, and that his wish will have to remain a wish. He tells Ray the real tragedy would have been if he'd only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes.
By the time Ray returns to the hotel room he and Mann share (which happens off screen) he has returned to the present. Ray and Mann leave for Iowa, confused as to why they made the journey to Minnesota. On the way home, they pick up a young hitchhiker, who identifies himself as a minor leaguer named Archie Graham—it's actually a spiritual incarnation of a young Doctor (or Doc) Graham. They take Graham back to the field in Iowa, where dozens of long-dead players have now returned for night games. Young Graham suits up and gets the chance to have his all-important one major league at bat. Mann is amazed at the "field of dreams".
The next morning, Ray, Mann and the family are watching the players of yesteryear practice when Mark shows up again, telling Ray that he's bankrupt, and needs to sign the sale papers now or he gets nothing when the bank forecloses in a few hours. Unlike Ray and the rest, Mark cannot see the players on the field. Ray debates signing it, because it appears he has no choice. He's told not to by both his daughter, Karin, and by Mann, who gives a speech on why he may be able to keep the farm yet:
- "Terence Mann: Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."
When he gets frustrated, Mark accidentally knocks over Karin, who falls from the top of the stands and starts to turn blue. As Karin lies unconscious, Ray looks to the field, where young Archie Graham is watching and realizes what to do. Archie steps off the field of dreams and becomes the elderly Dr. Graham, who walks over, helps clear Karin's windpipe, and explains that she was choking on a hot dog. At that moment, Mark finally sees the players on the field and immediately says "Don't sell this farm, Ray. Do not sell this farm."
Doc Graham, for his part, cannot return to his youthful incarnation, but assures Ray it's all right. He thanks Ray for giving him the chance to realize his wish. Then, as the other players offer him well wishes, Doc crosses the diamond and disappears into the corn.
After this, the players decide to call it a day and return to the corn. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson remains behind and asks Mann if he wants to come into the corn field and see what's on the other side, which may be the afterlife. This is unclear, since Shoeless Joe's conversation with Karin when they first met- "are you a ghost?" "What do you think?" "You look real to me." "Then I guess I'm real."- suggests he isn't a ghost (or that he is humoring or trying not to frighten a child), while another player tells Ray that he died in 1970. However, in the commentary track, director Phil Alden Robinson indicated it wasn't really important where the players went when they disappeared, or whether they were actually ghosts). Mann agrees to accept the invitation, finally seeing that his background as a writer is his place in the adventure, as he can write about the tale and see the other side. Ray, upset, says that he should be the one to go into the corn, as he sacrificed everything for the field of dreams. After Mann points out that Ray has a family while Mann is unattached, Ray apologizes and insists on a full report. Mann walks up to the corn and, after some hesitant exploration by gingerly sticking his hand in, steps into the corn and disappears with a laugh.
After Mann has gone, "Shoeless" Joe tells Ray, "If you build it... HE will come", and nods toward another player—a catcher—and the only one besides Joe who hasn't gone into the corn with the others. The player removes his catcher's mask, and Ray recognizes him as his father as a young man. The catcher approaches Ray, Annie and Karin, introduces himself as John Kinsella, and thanks them for building the ball field. Ray, in turn, introduces Annie and Karin, saying to Karin, "this is my— this is John." Annie and Karin then go inside, leaving Ray and John to talk for a moment. Then John says goodnight. As he starts toward the corn, Ray calls to him, "Hey, Dad? Wanna have a catch?" John replies, "I'd like that."
As Ray and John toss the ball back and forth, the camera pulls back, and in a helicopter shot, we see a long line of cars approaching the field, just as both Karin and Terrence Mann had predicted.