"I CONSIDER MYSELF THE LUCKIEST MAN ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH."
On July 4, 1939, baseball great Lou Gehrig delivered what has been called "baseball's Gettysburg Address" at Yankee Stadium and gave a speech that included the phrase that would become legendary. He died two years later and his fiery widow, Eleanor, wanted nothing more than to keep his memory alive. With her forceful will, she and the irascible producer Samuel Goldwyn quickly agreed to make a film based on Gehrig's life, The Pride of the Yankees. Goldwyn didn't understandor care aboutbaseball. For him this film was the emotional story of a quiet, modest hero who married a spirited woman who was the love of his life, and, after a storied career, gave a short speech that transformed his legacy. With the world at war and soldiers dying on foreign soil, it was the kind of movie America needed.
Using original scrips, letters, memos, and other rare documents, Richard Sandomir tells the behind-the-scenes story of how a classic was born. There was the so-called Scarlett O'Hara-like search to find the actor to play Gehrig; the stunning revelations Elanor made to the scriptwriter Paul Gallico about her life with Lou; the intensive training Cooper underwent to learn how to catch, throw, and hit a baseball for the first time; and the story of two now-legendary Hollywood actors in Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright whose nuanced performances endowed the Gehrigs with upstanding dignity and cemented the baseball icon's legend.
Sandomir writes with great insight and aplomb, painting a fascinating portrait of a bygone Hollywood era, a mourning widow with a dream, and the shadow a legend cast on one of the greatest sports films of all time.
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About the Author
Richard Sandomir has written for the New York Times since 1991, covering spots, business, and obituaries. He is the author or co-author of several books including Bald Like Me, and, most recently, The Enlightened Bracketologist, and its sequel, The Final Four of Everything.
Table of Contents
1 A Brilliant Career, a Tragic Death 9
2 Hollywood Beckons the Widow Gehrig 28
3 The Tears of a Mogul 37
4 In Search of Lou Gehrig 46
5 Babe on Film 58
6 Not All Yankees Welcome 70
7 The Producer and the Star 76
8 Eleanor: Defender of Lou's Legacy 88
9 Teresa Wright Will Not Do Cheesecake! 101
10 Becoming Lou: Cooper Learns to Play Baseball 110
11 Did Cooper, a Right-Hander, Become Gehrig, a Left-Hander? 128
12 Mama's Boy 140
13 "Lou Seems to Have Become More Gary Cooper Than Lou Gehrig" 173
14 Words for All Time 195
What People are Saying About This
"The riveting story behind the making of The Pride of the Yankees is finally being told in Richard Sandomir's meticulously-researched and gracefully-written book. He brings to vivid life Eleanor Gehrig, Gary Cooper and Samuel Goldwyn's efforts to turn a hero's life into a heartfelt film."
"There are very few great movies about sports, but after more than seventy years The Pride of the Yankees remains at the top of the roster because it focuses on the pride and grace that sports, at their best, display. As Richard Sandomir's fascinating book shows, this beautiful movie emerged simply because Sam Goldwyn needed a vehicle for Gary Cooper, whose gift for quiet anguish made Lou Gehrig immortal. It's an irresistible story."
"The brave, tragic story of Lou Gehrig, the great baseball player, was a script waiting to be written. With affection and reportorial savvy, Richard Sandomir describes how one myth begat another to produce the legendary baseball movie that still can make people cry. The Pride of the Yankees recalls a lost world, when Hollywood had the power to create dreams that people wanted to believe."
"More than the story of a movie or even an era of baseball, Richard Sandomir's brilliantly reported book transports us back to an age of real heroes who had both grit and elegance. In doing so, he issues a valuable challenge to today's stars: character matters."