Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Pride of the Yankees"

Catching up on an old classic I'd missed, I watched "Pride of the Yankees" yesterday, with Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig.

It was good, though very dated. The acting style is very 1942, with lots of rapid-patter dialogue and what today would be considered stilted delivery. You always expect some character to say, "Oh, a wise guy, see?"

Cooper was better than I expected, playing a character who was depicted as a straitlaced "boob," to use the parlance of the cynical younger reporter. I was surprised by the depiction of Gehrig's friendship with an older sportswriter played by Walter Brennan. The hack pals around with the baseball player, and happily demurs from writing about his personal life when Gehrig asks him to. Can you imagine that sort of relationship between a journalist and a pro athlete today?

I rather liked Teresa Wright as Mrs. Gehrig. She's a real firecracker, to again use the terminology of the time. Although once they get hitched, she immediately becomes less interesting. I think that's the way America, and certainly Hollywood, saw women back then: once they get married, they give up their own life to be a wife and mother.

One of my favorite games to play is to spot character actors in roles in different movies. When I saw the tiny little man playing Gehrig's father with a thick European (German?) accent, I immediately pegged him as the husband half of the couple in "Casablanca" who practice their newfound English on Humphrey Bogart in preparation for moving to America: "What watch?" "10 watch." "Such watch!"

Turns out I was right, and the actor's name is Ludwig Stossel. I thought that Elsa Janssen, the woman playing the mother, was also the same actress who played Stossel's wife in "Casablanca," but it's not.

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