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With: Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Babe Ruth, Walter Brennan, Dan Duryea, Elsa Janssen, Ludwig Stšssel, Virginia Gilmore, Bill Dickey, Ernie Adams, Pierre Watkin, Harry Harvey, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, Bill Stern
Written by: Jo Swerling, Herman J. Mankiewicz, based on a story by Paul Gallico
Directed by: Sam Wood
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 128
Date: 05/03/1943

The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Iron Horse

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lou Gehrig was known as the "Iron Horse" for his stamina. He set the record for consecutive games played, at 2130 (eventually broken by Cal Ripken Jr. in who finished with 2632 in 1998) and he may have been the greatest first baseman ever. After 16 seasons with the New York Yankees, he came down with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, later known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He gave a farewell speech that was simple but moving, and it provided a perfect ending for a movie.

The ultimate Gehrig biopic, The Pride of the Yankees (1942), came together at the exact right time with the exact right cast and crew. Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera, Kitty Foyle), a reliable MGM staff director, helmed a screenplay by Herman Mankiewicz (Citizen Kane) with help from legendary cinematographer Rudolph Mate (The Passion of Joan of Arc). None other than William Cameron Menzies (The Thief of Bagdad) did the production design. Damon Runyon wrote the prologue. Teresa Wright (Shadow of a Doubt) was nominated for an Oscar as Lou's wife, Walter Brennan turns in one of his greatest performances as a sportswriter, and Babe Ruth plays himself.

As Gehrig, Gary Cooper had the role of a lifetime; no one now or since was better suited to the aw-shucks American hero role, at least one that could pull off the stature of a master athlete. Cooper had just come off an Oscar-nominated performance as another real-life American hero in Sergeant York, and so he was primed for it. He received another Oscar nomination for his trouble.

Apparently Cooper could not master Gehrig's left-handed batting stance, and so the editor Daniel Mandell (who won an Oscar) came up with a plan: Cooper would bat right and run to third, and then the editor simply reversed the shots.

The Pride of the Yankees itself can be a little cornball. It invented some of the movies' most enduring cliches, such as the hospitalized boy who asks the Babe and Lou to hit him a home run and the line, "Give it to me straight, doc. How much time have I got?" Thankfully, the film avoids any gruesome hospital scenes or explaining just what symptoms Gehrig came down with. Instead, it shows a man who went out just as simply and as proudly as he came in.

Many consider The Pride of the Yankees the greatest baseball movie ever made. MGM's DVD release comes with optional subtitles but no other extras.

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