Video Picks Archive

October 17, 2001
This Week's Video Picks
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Reviews by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>

This week my picks are The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998 - ) and The Pride of the Yankees (1942 - ).

Just in case you find yourself bored between (or during) the games of the League Championship Series, I have two exceptional baseball-themed films for you to pass the time. First is a documentary that traveled around the country in small theatres and is finally coming to home video. Aviva Kempner's The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg chronicles the career of the legendary Detroit Tiger who was the first Jewish sports celebrity in America. Much of the film concerns how Greenberg served as a role model for Jewish boys and helped to drastically reduce anti-Semitism in professional sports and the country at large. Along with rare film clips, it features interviews with Michael Moriarty, Congressmen Carl and Sander Levin, and the late Walter Matthau in one of his last appearances on film.
Full review from January 30, 2000

But if you want to see one of the greatest baseball films of all time, look no further than the second pick. Gary Cooper has the role of a lifetime (quite literally) playing Lou Gehrig from his college days through his brilliant career with the New York Yankees, which was tragically cut short when he fell ill with ALS (now known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease" in America). Also in the film are Teresa Wright as Gehrig's wife, Eleanor, and Babe Ruth as himself. While most baseball films depend on the game for dramatic tension, The Pride of the Yankees finds plenty of drama in the human story, but the most famous scene in the film takes place in Yankee Stadium. It is, of course, the final scene which re-creates Gehrig's legendary retirement speech, in which Gehrig calls himself "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." If that doesn't move you, you are clearly inhuman.

Caveat emptor: The last edition of The Pride of the Yankees on both VHS and DVD was colorized for some reason that I can only imagine was evil. Thankfully, it is no longer being manufactured (hopefully to be replaced by a restored black&white version), but most of what's available for purchase or rental is colorized. Your best bet right now is to find either a much older video version or a black&white broadcast on TV. Or, just turn off the color on your set, because not only is the colorization offensive to the memory of the cinematographer (Rudolph Maté, who was nominated for an Oscar in the black&white category!) and the director (Sam Wood), but it is done so poorly that it gives the viewer a headache.


For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998)
The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998) -- VHS
The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998) -- DVD
Hank Greenberg: Hall-Of-Fame Slugger, by Ira Berkow -- Hardcover
The Pride of the Yankees (1942) - Colorized -- VHS
The Pride of the Yankees (1942) - Colorized -- DVD


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Capsule Reviews © 2001 Matt Heffernan