I was a teenager when I first watched this movie and came across a copy while browsing around the library this weekend. Feeling like I was overdue to re-watch it, I decided to check it out.
The Pride of the Yankees was released in 1942 and is subtitled “The Life of Lou Gehrig.” Starring Gary Cooper as Gehrig, Teresa Wright as his wife Eleanor, and Babe Ruth as himself, it chronicles events of Gehrig’s life, from boyhood to his iconic speech at Yankee Stadium at the end of his career. The movie is much more touchy-feely and relationship-focused than it is a baseball biography. There is certainly baseball in the movie — after all, how could there not be? — but emphasis falls more on Gehrig’s relationships with his parents and with his wife.
The complete turnaround in Gehrig’s mother’s attitude towards baseball is certainly one of my favorite aspects of the plot. In the beginning, Mrs. Gehrig is determined that her son will become an engineer, only wishing for him a better life than she had. When Gehrig signs with the Yankees out of Columbia, she is naturally disappointed. However, Gehrig’s solid play and eventual stardom win her over, and by the end, she insists that anybody can be an engineer, but there is only one Lou Gehrig.
Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech, both the original and the movie version, is so moving that anybody with a heart can’t help but be moved to tears. The movie as a whole revolves around the pulling of heart strings, from Gehrig’s too-good-to-be-true relationship with Eleanor, to the story of hitting two home runs for little Billy in the hospital, to the speech at the end. Certainly it was intended much more as a feel-good tale than a baseball movie. The movie ran a bit longer than I remembered it going (a little over two hours), but as a whole, was definitely worth watching once again.