The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
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This is the story of a hero of the
peaceful paths of everyday life.
It is the story of a gentle young
man who, in the full flower of his great fame, was a lesson in simplicity
and modesty to the youth of America.
He faced death with that same valor
and fortitude that has been displayed by thousands of young Americans on
the far-flung fields of battle. He left behind him a memory of courage
and devotion that will ever be an inspiration to all men.
This is the story of Lou Gehrig.
-- Damon Runyon
Nominated for eleven Academy Awards in
1943, THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES is still regarded by many today as the finest
baseball movie ever made. It chronicles the life and career of the New York Yankees' legendary first baseman and
batting champion, Lou Gehrig, who made history by playing
in 2,130 consecutive games over the course of a 14-year major league career.
After battling a debilitating nerve disease called amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS) which forced him out of the game early in 1939, Gehrig
died in 1941 at the age of 37. However, newsreel footage of his
farewell speech, made upon his retirement
in 1939, helped immortalize the quiet personality as a hero and all-American
role model rather than just a streak of statistics, and (at the suggestion
of story editor Niven Busch) producer
Sam Goldwyn decided to
make a movie of Gehrig's life. The resulting biopic, which features several of
teammates playing themselves (among them Bill Dickey, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig,
Bill Stern and Babe Ruth) has become almost as immortal among baseball fans as
Prologue to PRIDE OF THE YANKEES
But more than just a baseball movie or the patriotic
story of a first-generation American rising from immigrant poverty to make
a name for himself in "the land of opportunity," THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES
is a love story. Made during World War II and targeting a predominantly
female home-front audience, it focuses on the human side of its subject
rather than the great American pastime he plays, and somehow over the course
of the film, Gary
Cooper as Lou and Teresa
Wright as his wife Eleanor, manage to turn a seemingly ordinary, everyday
relationship into a beautiful romance. (And both received Oscar nominations
for their performances.)
Also in line with its war-time origins, as
the prologue suggests, THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES attributes Gehrig's heroism
not to his physical prowess, but to his qualities as a man -- courage,
valor, simplicity, modesty and devotion. For this reason, Hollywood
Cooper was chosen to play Gehrig in the film.
Despite his shortcomings
as a ballplayer, Cooper's
established screen persona -- as the honest, laconic, and all-American star
of such films as MEET JOHN DOE and SERGEANT YORK (both 1941) -- as well as
his physical resemblance to Gehrig, made him an obvious choice. Though many
of Gehrig's baseball records have since been broken, his legend and example
remain intact, thanks in no small part to the humanity with which the
creators of THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES chose to approach his life story and
Cooper's performance in the role. Sports fans need have no fear
however -- there is still plenty of baseball in the film.
One of the key cinematic components of the romance in
THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES is Irving Berlin's love song "Always" (a favorite of both Lou and
Eleanor Gehrig and Sam Goldwyn)
which permeates the film.
(clip) (a .WAV file).
I'll be loving you always.
With a love that's true, always. When
the things you've planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand, always...
Days may not be fair always.
That's when I'll be there, always.
Not for just an hour.
Not for just a day.
Not for just a year,
- "People have to live their own lives. Nobody can live it for
you. Nobody could have made a ball player out of Uncle Otto, and nobody
can make anything but a ball player out of me." --Lou Gehrig.
- "All baseball players are good for nothing -- loafers in short
pants!" --Mrs. Gehrig.
- "Omit flowers, please." --Hank Hanneman.
- "How's Tanglefoot? Has he come to yet, or can't you tell?"
- "What does it mean when a girl says you remind her of a Newfoundland
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