Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Young Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) wants to play baseball, but his mom wants him to become an engineer like uncle Otto. So he goes to university, where he plays baseball. Mom Gehrig needs an operation so how can a young man raise money to pay for it? He plays baseball. So, Little Louie becomes the star of the New York Yankees and his mother has no idea. Aw, shucks.

We follow Louie through his baseball life, his love life, and ultimately, his demise. All in all, he considered himself rather lucky. What was mom thinking naming him after a deadly disease? Aw, shucks.

I saw a small part of this movie ages back and the same thing struck me now as then. It is off putting watching Gary Cooper, age 41 going on 51, play the athletic Gehrig as a teen, who incidentally died at age 37 (17 months before the movie premiered). Apparently makeup had not been invented yet. 24 year old Teresa Wright was positively yummy as Mrs. Gehrig. Four years later she'll play a teen in The Best Years of Our Lives.

Walter Brennan plays Lou's sports writer friend and The Babe himself steals a few scenes. He seemed hearty and hale but apparently there were delays because of his health. In six years he'll join Lou in the ground.

Pride of the Yankees takes a few liberties with the life of Lou, but all in all is a better than fair love story. What it isn't is a Baseball Movie ala Bull Durham. If you are looking for a story about your baseball hero, this isn't it. Nor does it need to be. That said, it would have been cool had they added a little Joe DiMaggio reference in there. By films release he was a bonafide Yankee star.

Lou Gehrig was a quiet, unassuming family man. And he was a spectacular hitter. He was the model for the durable, hard working athlete and his body dissolved before he reached 40. For a man overshadowed most of his career by a crass, gluttonous, womanizing pig, his story rightly touches a nerve. If one is going to idolize someone with as useless of an occupation as baseball player, Lou is probably the best choice.

As far as this movie goes, despite it's flaws it held my interest and was clearly well made. AMRU 3.5.

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