“Forgotten Hollywood”- A Bronx Tale…

Posted on June 26, 2017 by raideoman1 | No Comments

Manny P. here…

“`The Pride of the Yankees is best remembered for Gary Cooper re-enacting Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. In 1939, the Bronx slugger and first baseman was dying of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,  a nerve disease that would carry his name. His oft-quoted observation  — Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth — set the standard for self-effacing courage.  When Hollywood got involved in Gehrig’s story, accuracy was destined to strike out.

“`Recommending a making-of-the-movie book as more interesting than the film it explores is a compliment to the author.  The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper, and the Making of a Classic, by Richard Sandomir, is worth the effort. The film is the kind of Hollywood schmaltz that makes us feel good. And, there is nothing wrong with that — as long as we know life is usually more complicated than a Gary Cooper vehicle.

“`Producer Samuel Goldwyn saw a Lou Gehrig movie in terms of typical entertainment of that period:  a portrait of a heroic figure with touches of humor and romance. A heart-tugging moment in the film comes when an ailing Gehrig, waiting for his turn at bat, realizing he can’t cut it anymore, takes himself out of the lineup, causing a shock wave in the stadium. In reality, Lou decided the night before and told his manager the next day. The crowd knew before the first pitch.

“`The studio publicity machine created a phony national search for the right person, whether actor or athlete, to play Lou Gehrig (imagine Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, or Ronald Reagan in pinstripes).  It was all ballyhoo, because Coop was under contract to Goldwyn, and still owed him a picture. The Montana-born Cooper was more at home on the range than at home plate, and needed lots of batting instruction; most of it behind his Los Angeles mansion. One tale is that he broke a window at neighbor Tyrone Power’s house — twice.

“`But, Sandomir refutes the folklore that all baseball scenes featuring the right-handed Cooper were reversed,  so he would resemble the lefty. Cinematic chicanery did take place, just not as much as some have said, and Cooper managed to learn to throw with his left. And then there’s the speech.  Sandomir points out, that newspapers published different versions of the farewell, and no complete newsreel of it exists. In real life, the famous line comes near the beginning of his remarks. In reel life, Cooper speaks the line at the end;  moviemakers knew a good ending when they heard one.

“`Ticket sales and 11 Oscar nominations  (it would win for film editing) proved Goldwyn was right to steer clear, for the most part, of baseball scenes. Viewed today, it’s a syrupy blend of cliches; falling short of the enduring charm of  Casablanca, and other wartime fare.

“`If none of that matters, then Sandomir’s dogged efforts to separate facts from fiction makes for one big whiff. More likely, fans of film and baseball will welcome the counterbalance to feel-good Hollywood myth-making.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

This entry was posted on Monday, June 26th, 2017 at 1:38 pm and is filed under Blog by Manny Pacheco. You can follow any comments to this post through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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