Posts Tagged ‘Pride of the Yankees’

Pride of the Yankees: A Review

November 29, 2011

Gary Cooper showing some bum how to hit

Well, it’s been forever since I did my Roger Ebert impression, so it’s time to do it again. I’ve spent years trying to convince my wife, son, and niece, that old movies can be really good (and that an inordinate number of them can also be really awful) and I seem to have succeeded to some degree. One of the best old movies is the Gary Cooper vehicle “Pride of the Yankees.”

“Pride” is a highly fictionalized version of the life of Lou Gehrig. In the flick, Gehrig is from a lower class family in New York. He loves baseball, as does his father (old line character actor Ludwig Stossel). Momma, played by another veteran of the era Elsa Janssen, thinks Lou should go to college and become a success. Of course Louie goes to school (Columbia) where he doesn’t exactly fit in with the frat, but also plays a little ball. He gains the attention of a newspaper man played by Walter Brennan who starts touting Gehrig to the Yankees. Eventually Momma gets sick, Gehrig drops out of school to play minor league ball in order to pay for her hospitalization. He makes the Yankees where he meets Babe Ruth (played by the Bambino himself), meets his future wife (Teresa Wright), and goes on to glory. Of course he ends up with ALS, gives a great speech on “Lou Gehrig Day”, then walks off into the tunnel as the ump yells “play ball” and the credits roll.

Teresa Wright as Mrs. Gehrig

A lot of that is utter nonsense (although Gehrig was close to his mother), but it’s still fun. Gary Cooper as Gehrig is great and Teresa Wright as Mrs. G is maybe even better. As a couple they do a great job working together. And of course Walter Brennan is Walter Brennan and Dan Duryea does a fine job as the other reporter who favors Ruth over Gehrig. Finally, as an actor Ruth is a great ballplayer, but heck, it’s Babe Ruth and who cares if he can act?

It helps that you know how this is going to end before you start watching it. You can just sit back and enjoy the dialogue, the acting, the fun, and the nonsense. They do a good job with the atmosphere of the ballpark and the filming¬†is excellent. Cooper was right-handed, Gehrig left-handed. To solve the problem they sewed “Yankees” onto Cooper’s uniform backwards (seekanY), had him bat and field right-handed, then simply reversed the film. It was a new technique for the era (although not the first time it was used) and is still something they do.

One major problem is the “Luckiest Man” speech. Cooper delivers it well, but it’s the wrong speech. For reasons I have never understood (except maybe they wanted “luckiest man” at the end of the speech) the film writers rewrote the speech. Frankly they didn’t make it better and I wish they’d left it alone.

The film won one Academy Award (for film editing–see what I mean about the reversed film). Cooper was nominated (he won two other Oscars), as was Wright (who won one). They lost to James Cagney and Greer Garson. It was also nominated for best picture, but lost to “Mrs. Miniver” (Garson’s picture). Frankly,¬†“Pride of the Yankees” has withstood the test of 70 years much better. It’s worth seeing when it shows up (which it does on TCM frequently in April). It runs 128 minutes, is in black and white, a makes a great holiday gift.

Baseball Flicks

December 28, 2009

For some reason that escapes me, football and basketball don’t make particularly good movies. There is the rare exception, but as a rule they’re pretty lousy. Baseball and boxing on the other hand make good flicks. Boxing is easy to understand because of the nature of one-on-one violence. Baseball’s a little harder to figure. I guess it has to do with the pace of the game which allows for more time to develop rhythm (and in the case of movies, plot). These are my favorite baseball movies.

5. The Natural: OK, I know it doesn’t end the way the book ends (I read the book years ago), but it’s still fun and the acting is pretty good, especially Glenn Close and Darren McGavin.

4. Bull Durham: I think it’s the most overrated baseball movie ever. It frequently comes in first on these kind of lists, and I think that’s way too high. Having said that, it’s still a good flick with Robbins, Costner, and Sarandon doing a good job.

3. Bang the Drum Slowly: One of DeNiro’s best. Good plot, great acting. DeNiro is young and still building his resume, but you can see the potential.

2. Pride of the Yankees: Oldest flick on this list. Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig is great, Teresa Wright as Mrs. G. is wonderful. You know how it’s going to end and you watch anyway. BTW Babe Ruth has a couple of lines.

1. Field of Dreams: Well, it’s not exactly a “baseball” movie, but the sport is used to fuel the plot. Costner does a decent job, Amy Madigan as the wife is wonderful and James Earl Jones is impressive (how did he not receive an Academy Award nomination that year?). Watch for the “Peace, Love, Dope” scene, the speech about the importance of baseball, and the “Dad, wanna have a catch” scene. If you ain’t crying at that last scene, you got no soul.

Honorable mention: The Rookie–it’s very new, so I’d like to give it time to age. The scenes of Morris is the minors are wonderful and everybody knows the scene with the speed indicator. BTW love the music inserted in the movie.