Hot off his Oscar win for playing the real-life war hero of Sergeant York, Gary Cooper proceeded to star as another iconic American in The Pride of the Yankees, as recently-deceased baseball superstar Lou Gehrig. Jo Swerling and Herman J. Mankiewicz’s screenplay takes us routinely through the major events of Gehrig’s life, with few obstacles or any real arc, until his fatal diagnosis with the disease he remains known for today. Early on, forty-one-year-old Cooper ludicrously plays Gehrig as a college student at Columbia, but quickly moves on to playing in the major leagues and joining the Yankees. Considering the title of the film, however, the team and the sport get remarkably little screen time—even the third-billed Babe Ruth (playing himself) barely appears. More time is devoted to the romance with his bride-to-be (the always lovely Teresa Wright) and the relationship Gehrig had with his parents (Elsa Janssen and Ludwig Stössel). Ultimately, Cooper brings his compelling persona of the strong, quiet, simple American man, but the film is dramatically inert for the most part and lacks any real sense of the passage of time. The Pride of the Yankees claims to cover an amazing decade and a half of Gehrig’s adult life, but comes off as closer to one fairly dull year.
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