A 1942 biopic dramatizing the life of New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig, The Pride of the Yankees was directed by Sam Wood and stars Gary Cooper as Gehrig, along with Teresa Wright, Walter Brennan, and Babe Ruth as himself.
The film starts with Gehrig as a boy in New York City, a child of immigrant parents who want him to go to Columbia University and become an engineer. Lou's mother is dismayed when his feats on the Columbia baseball team draw the attention of the New York Yankees, who wind up pulling Lou away from his studies to play baseball.
Lou becomes a huge big-league star, but the film pays more attention to his romance with and marriage to the stylish, feisty Eleanor Twitchell (Wright). Theirs is an ideal, loving marriage, as Lou racks up award after award, playing over 2,000 consecutive baseball games for the Yankees—until he is struck by a terminal illness, amytrophic lateral sclerosis, which afterwards would be popularly known as "Lou Gehrig's disease". A dying Gehrig has to retire from baseball, and the film ends with his iconic farewell speech to the fans in Yankee Stadium.
The Pride of the Yankees was released three years after Gehrig's retirement and just one year after his death from ALS. It received 11 Academy Award nominations, it is often on lists of the best baseball movies of all time, and it is guaranteed to make a Yankees fan cry.
- Amusement Park: Lou takes Eleanor to an amusement park for a date.
- As You Know: "That's what happened to Eddie Collins, the greatest second baseman we ever had at Columbia", as two people discuss at Columbia discuss the prospect of Lou Gehrig being signed to play in the big leagues.
- Autobiographical Role: Babe Ruth does a fine job playing Babe Ruth, getting some good comic business, like one scene where his teammates wreck Ruth's straw hat.note Gehrig's teammates Bill Dickey, Bob Meusel, and Mark Koenig also appear as themselves, as does sports announcer Bill Stern.
- Biopic: One of the best.
- Broken Glass Penalty: A young Lou, playing sandlot ball with the kids in the neighborhood, hits one over the lot's fence, across the street, and through a shop's glass window. This gets him in trouble with his mom.
- Call-Forward: A pretty ham-handed example from manager Miller Huggins when Lou refuses to be taken out after being conked in the head by a throw in his first game.Huggins: What do we have to do, kill you to get you out of the lineup?
- "Eureka!" Moment: At the Amusement Park scene, Gehrig sees a man consistently winning the high striker game despite being small and not especially strong. The man explains how he uses his wrists to generate more speed and power in the mallet. Gehrig uses this to generate more power in his swing and his home run rate skyrockets.
- Face Death with Dignity: One of the most iconic examples, as Gehrig, who knows perfectly well that he is dying, gives a moving, optimistic speech. The speech was condensed and rearranged from what the real Gehrig said, with the "luckiest man on the face of the Earth" line moved from the beginning to the end.
- Gilligan Cut: After Mama Gehrig reacts very badly to the news that Lou has abandoned Columbia for baseball, he suggests that she come to the ballpark and watch him play. She shouts "Never! Never!", and the movie immediately cuts to Mr. and Mrs. Gehrig in Yankee Stadium waiting to see Lou play.
- Happily Married: In one scene Lou says that they never had a honeymoon, and Eleanor says "We've never had anything else."
- Informed Ability: Gary Cooper had never played baseball in his life, wasn't all that athletic despite being tall and handsome, and was especially bad at trying to bat left-handed like Lou Gehrig did. Contemporary sources reported that the studio filmed Cooper batting righty and then reversed the film. Careful analysis has since determined that except for one quick shot of Gehrig playing minor league ball, this was not done, and Cooper is in fact batting left-handed in the movie. It is however true that Cooper looks terribly unconvincing when taking lefty swings. See Talent Double below.
- Insult of Endearment: Lou and Eleanor take to calling each other "Tanglefoot," in reference to their humbling first impressions of each other.
- It Will Never Catch On: Hank Hannerman, the obnoxious reporter who doubts Gehrig, confidently states that Lou Gehrig will never become famous.
- Manly Tears: Gehrig's final speech.
- A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens with a young Gehrig playing ball in the neighborhood and being told by his parents to work hard at his studies.
- Mood Whiplash: Lou and Eleanor are horsing around at home, playfully wrestling, laughing and having fun—until she wins, pinning him. Lou's face contorts with fear as he realizes that something is very wrong with him.
- My Beloved Smother: Mama Gehrig seems a little too jealous of the idea that Lou might have girlfriends, and after he marries Eleanor she tries to control their lives until Lou sets her straight.
- One Head Taller: Tall Gary Cooper and diminutive Teresa Wright.
- Talent Double: Cooper's stand-in, major leaguer Babe Hermannote , was used for scenes where Cooper had to throw the ball lefty.
- Time Passes Montage: A scene where Eleanor puts clippings in a scrapbook gets the movie through about ten years, mentioning the death of Miller Huggins and Babe Ruth's departure from the Yankees.
- Travel Montage: A couple to get across the idea of the Yankees making the American League circuit, one by showing pennants of all the teams they visit, one by showing players' uniforms.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Like most other biopics of the era, there wasn't a lot of worry about staying true to the facts. A couple of examples: in Real Life, Gehrig played in 34 games scattered over three seasons before his famous streak started on June 1, 1925. The streak did not start when Gehrig entered the lineup in place of Wally Pipp, but with a pinch-hitting appearance. And the sequence where Gehrig hits two home runs in a game of the 1928 World Series to inspire a little boy is all fictional—Gehrig did hit two homers in Game 3 but nothing else about how the game is shown in the movie is true. There wasn't any "Billy", either, and the scene seems to be loosely inspired by a real-life incident in which Ruth promised to hit a home run for a sick child in the 1926 World Series, and followed through. In real life, no one knew Gehrig was dying during his "luckiest man on Earth" speech; he had kept the seriousness of his sickness a secret, and the public wasn't aware of the deadliness of ALS (only 10% of sufferers survived past two years.)
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