Ten years after penning “The Pride of the Yankees” about Lou Gehrig, the Wilkes-Barre-reared Herman Mankiewicz tackled the life of famed Cardinals fastball pitcher Jerome “Dizzy” Dean (Dan Dailey) in “The Pride of St. Louis,” (1952, Fox Cinema Archive, unrated, $20), a low-key but likable biopic.
Mankiewicz had quite a way with biopics. He netted an Oscar, after all, for co-writing (with Orson Welles) “Citizen Kane,” a fictionalized take on William Randolph Hearst.
Still, it wasn’t the “Kane” connection that got him the job. According to Mankiewicz biographer Richard Meryman, it was Herman’s younger brother Joseph (best known for writing and directing “All About Eve”) who suggested his sibling for the writing assignment.
“The Pride of St. Louis” was something of a default stint for Herman, who failed to get his dream project, “Woman on the Rock,” off the ground. That movie, yet another fictionalized biopic, tackled the life of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.
Happily for Mankiewicz, “The Pride of St. Louis” was a big hit.
Dailey, who was as tall and gangly as the real Dizzy, does a spectacular job capturing the ballplayer’s gawkiness, brash confidence and special way of mangling the English language.
While the love story between Dizzy and his wife (Joanne Dru) lacks the depth Mankiewicz was able to bring to the similar relationship between Gehrig (Gary Cooper) and his wife (Teresa Wright) in “Pride of the Yankees,” “Pride of St. Louis” is never less than entertaining.
The movie, which just arrived on DVD courtesy of Fox Cinema Archives, was Mank’s last. He died less than a year after its release.