"The Pride Of The Yankees" Is Released
The Pride of the Yankees is a 1942 biographical film directed by Sam Wood about the New York Yankees baseball player, first baseman Lou Gehrig, who had his career cut short at 36 years of age when he was stricken with the fatal disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease"). The movie was released the year after Gehrig's death.
It starred Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig and co-starred Teresa Wright as his wife Eleanor and Walter Brennan as a sportswriter friend. Yankee teammates Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig and Bill Dickey played themselves, as did sportscaster Bill Stern.
The movie was adapted by Herman J. Mankiewicz, Jo Swerling, and an uncredited Casey Robinson from a story by Paul Gallico.
The film includes a re-enactment of Gehrig's farewell speech in Yankee Stadium. The famous line "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth" was voted #38 in the American Film Institute (AFI) list of the 100 greatest movie quotes of all time.
"It's box office poison," producer Samuel Goldwyn is said to have exclaimed when he heard the idea of filming the life story of fabled first baseman Lou Gehrig. "If people want baseball, they go to the ballpark!" The story begins before World War I, when young Lou Gehrig (played as a boy by Douglas Croft) begins dreaming of becoming a professional ballplayer. Lou's immigrant parents (Elsa Jansen and Ludwig Stossel) insist that the boy attend Columbia University to become an engineer. While in college, Lou (played as a man by Gary Cooper) becomes a star athlete, and, with the help of sports journalist Sam Blake (Walter Brennan), he is signed by the New York Yankees and joins their big-league lineup in 1925; real-life Yanks Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, Bob Meusel and Mark Koenig play themselves. He also meets and falls in love with Eleanor Twitchell (Teresa Wright) (an event that actually happened in 1933) and earns the nickname "The Iron Man of Baseball" because he never misses a game. In 1939, Lou discovers that he has a fatal neurological disease called amytrophic lateral sclerosis (now known, of course, as "Lou Gehrig's Disease"). On July 4, 1939, an emotional Lou Gehrig, a scant two years away from death, bids farewell to 62,000 of his fans and friends at Yankee Stadium. Allowing that he might have been given a bad break, he concludes his speech with "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Deftly weaving basic facts with yards and yards of fancy, screenwriters Jo Swerling and Herman J. Mankiewicz serve up one of the most entertaining and inspiring baseball biopics. A more accurate but less dramatic adaptation of the same story, A Love Affair: The Eleanor & Lou Gehrig Story, was produced for television in 1977. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide