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Yet another Pride review, but this time with some jazz


When Pride of the Yankees was released on DVD September 17, 2002, I was among the first to claim a copy. It was a very special day indeed when the DVD box finally found its place atop my entertainment center. Though thrilled to have a copy of the movie to play at whim, I was disappointed to discover that the DVD has no bonus material. I was hoping for at least a few behind-the-scenes pictures, perhaps a scene or two rescued from the cutting room floor, or a mini documentary/commentary. Alas, it's only the movie that has been around since 1942.

The manufacturers were generous enough to produce a menu of scenes from the movie at which to begin play, but that's nothing unique. The same for the language selection: English, Spanish, or French - nothing new. Other than the classic movie contained within, nothing sets this DVD apart from the others. Even the sleeve is bare-bones. It's all good, though. Gehrig fans only need the movie, not the technology.

The movie itself is the only reason I, and surely all the other Gehrig fans, shelled out $14.

It's been a while since I had last seen Pride of the Yankees - 7 years, to be exact. In that meantime, I had read many a page about Lou Gehrig's life. Going back to Pride with the biographical knowledge I earned, I was able to pick up on things I hadn't noticed previously.

For instance, the beginning scene in the sandlot shows a young Gehrig treasuring his Babe Ruth trading card over his Honus Wagner. Bah! Certainly Gehrig had admiration for Ruth (what school boy wouldn't?), but Wagner was his true hero, and it rather disappoints me that Ruth, with whom Gehrig was not on good terms when Gehrig retired, was given the hero spot in the youngster's heart.

The film's length - a little over 2 hours - can be a small obstacle for those of us cultured with the modern-America short attention span. Some parts (such as the ballroom dancing scene - that's right, ballroom dancing in a baseball movie) are so slow moving my popcorn was in danger of going stale. The string quartet doesn't relieve the urge to fast-forward. Certainly the ballroom dancing and strings are suppose to represent the classiness and finer things that Eleanor (played by Teresa Wright) introduced into Gehrig's life, but that doesn't calm a case of the yawns. At least throw in some percussion or electric guitar, make things more manly, I say.

Gary Cooper plays Lou Gehrig from age college-boy to farewell-speech. An excellent choice, as has been said time and time again. The men even looked similar. But it's hard to imagine the real Gehrig having quite so many facial twitches and hesitant mannerisms as Cooper indicates. Also, Cooper runs like a drunk girl, and from what I've read on the making of the movie, he couldn't throw worth a darn either. To make matters more complicated, Cooper was a rightie whereas Gehrig was a leftie. Well, fates love him, with the help of the boys in the editing room and an intense, crash course of toss-n-catch, he was able to pull off being a left-handed baseball player convincingly enough. (The running couldn't be helped, however).

I would do injustice if I did not, at minimum, speak of Cooper's rendition of Gehrig's farewell speech - the monumental words of Gehrig's life as well as the film. The Hollywood version is a patchwork of the original speech, but is just as beautiful. Cooper comes across just the right amount of nervous and baffled so as to perfectly emulate Gehrig.

A bit jingle-jangled in chronology and accuracy, Pride is an overall beautiful portrayal of Lou Gehrig's life. There is a noticeable undercurrent of humor that successfully floats such a heart-wrenching story as Gehrig's. The chemistry between Cooper and Wright is yummy, and the casting of the parents Gehrig couldn't have been better.

In this reviewer's opinion, there were two very shiny gems in this movie that puts a huge smile on my face. The first one is the producers' choice of using the song "Always" in the first-date scene with Cooper and Wright. Eleanor Gehrig wrote in her autobiography that she was very pleased "Always" was on the soundtrack - it was her and Lou's song.

The other gem is Gehrig's delivery of a promise to a sick boy in a hospital. Billy, the fortunate boy, is first seen with Babe Ruth hovering over his bed with hords of photographers and paper men standing around. Ruth promises to hit a home run for Billy, but Billy is all like, "Yeah, you do that, you big show monkey." Then Ruth and his hord leave, and there's Gehrig standing in the corner of the room. Billy brightens up and asks Gehrig to hit two homeruns on his behalf. Despite difficulty, Gehrig does as he promised and turns out to be the forever hero of Billy. Ahhh...good stuff!

The sleeve of the DVD box states that the movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards: Actor, Actress, Original Story, Screenplay, Cinematography, Interior Decoration, Sound Recording, Score, Editing (which it won), Special Effects, and Best Picture. Quite a feat for a single movie about a humble human being. If nothing else, let this statistic be the selling point that Pride is worth the money and the little over 2 hours with staling popcorn.


Sequential article: "Luckiest Man" Speech Hollywood-ized

Written by S. Kaden, 2002