Movie Fact #142 - January 13th, 2021
For the 1942 film The Pride of the Yankees, while RKO Pictures announced in a 1941 press release that they were looking for a major talent hunt for Lou Gehrig's portrayer, producer Samuel Goldwyn and Sam Wood reportedly never considered casting anyone but Gary Cooper in the title role. While he was cast, it came with a number of difficulties. While ideally suited to the part due to his physical resemblance to Gehrig and the quiet strength and masculine appeal that he projected, Cooper was reluctant to accept it because he, like Goldwyn, had no interest in baseball. In fact, by one account, Cooper had never watched a game nor even swung a bat prior to taking the role. And there were also practical problems related to his casting.
Cooper was 41 at the time of filming which made it a problem for portraying Gehrig as a young man. For this, cinematographer Rudolph Maté lighted Cooper from below during those early scenes to conceal lines and wrinkles, then gradually reduced and finally eliminated the lighting effect as the story progressed. Ultimately, Cooper was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. So, yes he faced challenges, but he overcame them to do Gehrig justice. Stay tuned!