[1942] The Pride of the Yankees

The Pride of the Yankees paints Lou Gehrig as the wholesome king of Yankee baseball in an era when Yankee baseball was king in the world of sport and the world of culture. In many respects, he was, if the movie is at least somewhat true. Self-aware and humble to a fault, a man whose mother was his “best girl” even when he married a woman of equal tenacity and warmth, Gehrig prescribed wholesomeness to the masses in a sport dubbed and continually rebranded as America’s pastime. The Pride, capital P, was not of his own accomplishment but to his team, and to his country by proxy. Whether any of the story is absolutely true is irrelevant: there has been a Mr. October and a Mr. November on the New York Yankees in the 75 years since Gehrig died, but The Pride of the Yankees paints Lou Gehrig as Mr. Forever.

This film was so profoundly moving for at least three reasons. The closeness of its creation to Lou Gehrig’s death, the striking accuracy with which Gary Cooper portrayed a man he may or may not have ever met, and the microscopic detail paid to a single man, when the film could have been about the whole team, a completely different team, or a different player all together, and it still would not have been about baseball. But it always was.

The hagiographic nature of this film paints Gehrig as at least saintly and at mostly godlike. Sincere in that level of reverence, The Pride of the Yankees idolizes Number Four as this man who can do no wrong and in his death the man who will perpetually do right. The world, at least as far as American sport reached, still reeled from his passing too soon from a degenerative disease that bears his name. Biographies just do not happen that close to passing. There is not enough time to memorialize and remember what there is to know about a person before the edit is due to the publisher or studio. Details continue to unfold about Gehrig’s life and will continue forever as long as a record of his life, as he lived it, exists. But this extracts a question with no answer: when is too early to remember someone? Are biographies awkward and unnecessary while the person is still alive? Can an unauthorized biography hold any credence, ever? Sometimes the reader just wants to learn about a character that exists or existed at one time. Is this wrong, or more specifically, authentic? Continue reading “[1942] The Pride of the Yankees”

[1942] The Magnificent Ambersons

With a sincere bitterness, Orson Welles got his Either/Or moment upon the release of 1942’s The Magnificent Ambersons.  Welles, most widely known for his 1941 masterstroke, Citizen Kane, had the opportunity just a year later to curate his mystique by delving into the canonical review of massive tech and social changes around the turn of the last century. Welles, like all of us, like George Amberson Minifer, continued to have an infinite amount of choice, and with either choice or no choice, the choice was wrong. One can be tempted to call this kind of distinction fate, but instead it seems like inevitability.

Either/Or, of course, is Søren Kierkegaard’s long manifesto on the rumination of choice, love, marriage and aesthetics. Written almost a full century before the jumble that was The Magnificent Ambersons, Either/Or outlines that choice is not really a choice, but rather a blurry distinction between a set of other distinctions. Inevitably each person will make some “right” choices and some “wrong” choices (really no choices), but none of these choices should lead to any sort of marriage – whether it be convenience or love/lust. This same affliction haunts George Amberson, our stories main antagonist and thematic driving point. The man himself is a caricature of indecision – he seems determined to make no choices, which in and of itself is a choice, concerning his life, his mother’s life or his lover’s life. Left to his own desires, munitions and a lackadaisical boredom, this man is a broken shell of a comeuppance-to-be. Kierkegaard writes:

…then, that the world goes from bad to worse, and that its evils increase more and more, as boredom increases, as boredom is the root of all evil.

 

Unfortunately, this sort of proliferation of boredom and mediocrity also haunted the release of this film. Continue reading “[1942] The Magnificent Ambersons”