18 July 2010 | AlexisKuttmeov
A poignant story from a wife's point of view...
This film is a completely different and much more truthful look at the Lou Gehrig story than "Pride of the Yankees" and is told from the point of view of his wife, Eleanor. The 1978 NBC TV World Priemiere Movie was based on the 1976 Book "My Luke and I" by Eleanor Gehrig and Joseph Durso.
The time span covered is from just before the Gehrig's first meeting until Lou's death. This film is about husband and wife and their life in and around baseball in the thirties, not simply the Iron Horse story of the forties film.
I have viewed the movie several times and just recently acquired and read the book. The film is extremely true to the facts set forth in the book and sheds a different light on the relationships between Gehrig and his wife, his mother, and his teammate, Babe Ruth. Blythe Danner is excellent as usual while portraying Eleanor Gehrig at several different ages.
Just as Gary Cooper was physically miscast in "The Pride of the Yankees" so was Edward Herrmann in this film. However, they both did admirable jobs in getting the character of Gehrig right in so far as the goal of each film was concerned.
The other reviewer makes mention that Gehrig flourished in the shadow of others and uses his sub par (by Gehrig's standards only) 1935 season as an example. This is something that is his own surmise as it doesn't come up in either movie. However, in the book we learn that even after his triple crown winning performance in 1934 Gehrig went through a long salary dispute and threatened holdout with Jacob Ruppert, the Yankees tight-fisted owner. The dispute was over a $1,000 difference in salary with Lou eventually accepting $39,000 instead of $40,000. Eleanor states in the book that Lou was disheartened by his perceived unfair treatment at the hands of Ruppert.
Also, despite the fact that this movie does a much better job of realistically depicting the onset of the disease than the previous version, it doesn't have the time to go into the time-line and details. Gehrig was actually having sporadic and unexplained bouts of extreme pain, which started in 1935. Only his resolve, dedication to excellence and work ethic allowed him to continue to put up big numbers for a few more years.
The style of the film is a little different, as it makes frequent use of the flashback, in fact starting with Mrs. Gehrig talking to the writer, Durso, in present day Yankee stadium and telling her story to him there. We then have moments of fun as the Gehrigs meet, court, marry and enjoy life, interspersed with moments of grief as the disease begins to take its toll.
An interesting supporting cast, a beautiful musical theme and some tasteful directing make this one of the best small budget T.V. movies that I have ever seen. I highly recommend it.