Pride of the Yankees
A film by Sam Wood starring Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright and Babe Ruth.
Reviewed by S. Derby Gisclair
The life and career of baseball's "Iron Man," Lou Gehrig, are vividly dramatized in this moving 1942 biographical film, a box-office smash that earned 11 Oscar nominations and renewed respect for its star, Gary Cooper. Despite the protests of studio mogul Samuel Goldwyn who is reported to have shouted, " It's box office poison ," when he heard the idea of filming the life story of fabled first baseman Lou Gehrig. " If people want baseball, they go to the ballpark! " Well, once again, Sam Goldwyn was wrong.
While the tall, lanky Cooper isn't a perfect physical match for the powerfully built Gehrig, he does bring quiet dignity to the character and plays the erstwhile Yankee superstar for what he was: a modest individual who constantly strove for and achieved perfection in his chosen profession. Teresa Wright is perfectly cast as Lou's beloved Eleanor, the adoring sweetheart who kept him humble during the years of fame and remained by his side when he was crippled and eventually killed by the debilitating disease that now bears his name.
Babe Ruth, the legendary Sultan of Swat, makes a cameo as himself in this stirring cinematic tribute, which does take occasional liberties with the truth, but still captures Gehrig's essential nobility. Cooper's re-creation of Lou's memorable retirement speech ( "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth..." ) is still an incredibly moving scene no matter how many times I watch it and while unintentional I'm sure, provides a striking counterpoint to the pampered prima donnas who dominate professional baseball today. Also on my list of the greatest baseball movies ever made.