The featured film at this weekend’s State Theatre Center for the Arts’ Classic Film Series is as classic as it gets.
The film, “The Pride of the Yankees,” was produced by Sam Goldwyn and directed by Sam Wood. The 1942 film tells the story of legendary New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at age 37 — one year before the movie was released. Later, the disease became widely known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The movie stars Gary Cooper as Gehrig, along with Gehrig’s Yankee teammates Yankee Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Bill Dickey playing themselves, as does sportscaster Bill Stern.
The film was adapted by Herman J. Mankiewicz, Jo Swerling, and an uncredited Casey Robinson from a story by Paul Gallico, and received 11 Academy Award nominations. Gehrig is followed from his childhood in New York to the film’s climax, a re-enactment of Gehrig’s poignant 1939 farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. The film’s iconic closing line — “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” — was voted 38th on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 greatest movie quotes, according to IMDb website.
Although subtitled “The Life of Lou Gehrig,” the film is less a sports biography and more a homage to a heroic and widely loved sports figure whose tragic and premature death touched the entire nation. It emphasizes Gehrig’s relationship with his parents, particularly his strong-willed mother, his friendships with players and journalists, and his storybook romance with the woman who became his “companion for life,” Eleanor.
Details of his baseball career—which were still fresh in most fans’ minds in 1942 — are limited to montages of ballparks, pennants, and Cooper swinging bats and running bases, though Gehrig’s best-known major league record — 2,130 consecutive games played—is prominently cited.
The film is not rated due to pre-dating the rating system by the Motion Picture Association of America, but is family-friendly.
On Rotten Tomatoes website’s Tomatometer, “The Pride of the Yankees’ receives an impressive 93% and the audience score it a 89%.
“Variety” staff writers said, “For baseball and non-baseball fan alike, this sentimental, romantic saga of the NY kid who rose to the baseball heights and later met such a tragic end is well worth seeing.”
The film is slated to hit the State Theatre’s big screen on March 13 and showtimes are 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the theater, 37 E. Main St., Uniontown. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students.
Other films to be shown as part of the Classic Film Series include: “Jesus Christ Superstar” (April 24), “Laura” (May 15), “Splendor in the Grass” (June 5), “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (July 31) and “American Graffiti” (Aug. 21).