The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

pride of the yankees poster 1942 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking and good cast

Plays a little loose with history for storytelling purposes

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Pride of the Yankees

Studio:  The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Genre(s):  Drama/Sports

Release Date(s):  July 15, 1942 (Premiere)/November 1942 (UK)/March 5, 1943 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

pride of the yankees lou gehrig wife eleanor teresa wright gary cooper

I’m just a 20-something guy…trust me…

Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) grew up loving ball, but promising his mother (Elsa Janssen) that he would follow in his uncle’s footsteps to become an engineer.  When fate steps in, Lou finds himself drafted by the Yankees and on a new path.  Meeting Eleanor Twitchell (Teresa Wright) as he is starting his career, Gehrig finds a supporter in her and sportswriter Sam Blake (Walter Brennan)…and as he wins games, he wins the heart of Yankees fans.  Unfortunately something is lurking inside of Lou that will change the course of his life but in its own way create an even bigger legend.

Directed by Sam Wood, The Pride of the Yankees is a biopic sports drama.  The film tells the story of Lou Gehrig (June 19, 1903-June 2, 1941) who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis now known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  The movie won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), Best Actress (Wright), Best Original Story, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography—Black-and-White, Best Art Direction—Interior Decoration—Black-and-White, Best Sound Recording, Best Special Effects, and Best Dramatic or Comedy Picture Score.  The line “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” is often picked as one of the most iconic film quotes.

pride of the yankees lou gehrig two home runs hospital gary cooper

Dammit, Billy. Can’t I just pay your hospital bill or something instead of home runs?

I grew up probably knowing Lou Gehrig’s disease before I knew who Lou Gehrig was.  While The Pride of the Yankees isn’t very factual, it does capture the spirit of sports star and the tragedy of the battle he fought…for the screen.

The movie is primarily meant to be a rousing picture, and it succeeds in that.  It creates Gehrig’s romance with his wife much earlier than it actually happened (he was already established as a player) and plays with facts, figures, and timelines to make the movie more dramatic.  While this is good, it also doesn’t necessarily seem necessary.  Gehrig’s story is dramatic and tragic, but The Pride of the Yankees is what was stylistically happening at the time in films.

Cooper does a great job to humanize Gehrig.  Though he is right handed, he supposedly learned to play left handed for the film (this was highly debated at the time the movie was released) though Cooper is way too old for the movie especially in the early scenes.  Teresa Wright is good as Gehrig’s supportive yet independent wife while Elsa Janssen and Ludwig Stössel feel a bit like stereotypes as they are portrayed.  The banter between writers Walter Brennan (pro-Gehrig) and Dan Duryea (Pro-Ruth) gets a bit old as the movie continues.  Babe Ruth appears as himself in the movie which also was problematic due to Ruth’s weight and health at the time.

pride of the yankees lou gehrig speech luckiest man on the face of the earth gary cooper

I’m the luckiest man on the face of the Earth…

It is always a struggle to make sports movies look like sports movies with actors since athletes are athletes for a reason.  The movie does its best and tries to keep away from as much sports as possible by focusing on Gehrig’s home and the events “between games”.  It does a decent job when it does go into sports mode, but fares better as a drama.

The Pride of the Yankees was released a year after Gehrig’s death.  As Gehrig is portrayed in the film, I don’t know if he’d have loved to have seen himself on screen…but this is also using the film’s characterization of Gehrig.  With the movie playing fast and loose with Gehrig’s life, you aren’t really sure if you get a clear picture of Gehrig or what he was really like…but it still is a story of appreciation and the love of the game.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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