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From NY Immigrants' Child to American Legend
on June 26, 2004
This was probably my introduction, and for millions of others, to the legend that is Lou Gehrig. And for so many years, I had Gehrig and Gary Cooper completely confused in my mind--they seemed inseparable. But there's good reason for it: the role of the Iron Horse seemed to be made for Cooper. Gehrig was a low-key, almost self-effacing athlete and person, which was just the type of character that Cooper built his career on. Their sizes were just about the same. Cooper nailed down Lou Gehrig's voice, especially for the famous "luckiest man" farewell speech. Hell, Gary Cooper LOOKS like Lou Gehrig! Maybe my confusion is justified, at least on this subject.
PRIDE OF THE YANKEES is the grand-daddy of all baseball movies. Cooper's performance, as I can't help but keep mentioning, is stellar. Teresa Wright as his wife helps keep the hankies moist but she is also very spunky and strong. Walter Brennan (who also played opposite Cooper in MEET JOHN DOE where John Doe is a semi-pro pitcher) is in a supporting role here but provides desperately needed comic relief.
And perhaps I'm wrong to categorize PRIDE OF THE YANKESS as merely a baseball film. It is about human potential, human frailty, and above all human strength during times of crisis. Lou Gehrig's tragedy occurred during a time of extreme crisis in America, and, I believe, his strong steady public appearances helped the nation through it. PRIDE OF THE YANKEES could easily have been named "Strength of America" in my mind. It's that important a film.