January 20, 2015

Teresa Wright, The Pride of the Yankees

as ELEANOR TWITCHELL
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There’s a scene a little over halfway through The Pride of the Yankees where Gary Cooper’s Lou Gehrig has just one-upped Babe Ruth by promising a sick, hospitalized little boy named Billy who can’t walk (vomit) that he’ll hit not one but two home runs just for him during the World Series game (okay, whatever), because you can do anything if you work hard enough (vomit again). After hitting one home run, we all wait on the edge of our seats to see if he’ll actually be able to hit the second and fulfill his promise. Throughout all this, we see Teresa Wright’s Eleanor listening to the game on the radio, clutching a doll in one arm (WTF) with one half-clenched fist pressed against her cheek. Once Gehrig does the unthinkable and hits that second home run, everyone goes crazy, Eleanor hops up and down with her doll yelling “YAY WHOOPEE!!!” (vomit) and we cut to Gehrig’s family and friends who’ve assembled a conga line and are dancing and singing “LOU, LOU, LOU, GEHRIG, GEHRIG, GEHRIG, GEHRIG, GEHRIG.”(vomit vomit vomit) I am not fucking kidding that this scene is a real thing, and I chose to write about it in this upfront because I feel it perfectly encapsulates the essence The Pride of the Yankees as well as Wright’s performance.

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From a literal standpoint, I'm not a fan of this performance because it's very clearly a supporting one. That Wright got into the Best Actress category on top of her Mrs. Miniver nomination (and win) is a testament to just how much the industry loved her at the time. From a material standpoint, I'm not a fan because I hate the supportive wife archetype. Because as a person who loves actresses for the emotional depth they provide over their male counterparts, why the hell would I care about a woman who is defined by how great a partner she is to her man? And from a personal taste standpoint, I'm just not big on Wright's acting here. Between this and The Little Foxes, Wright has struck me as a very affected actress, in which everything she says has a forced tinge to it (though such is old-Hollywood style acting). Nothing about her seems natural here, and most of what she says sounds so artificial, though I suppose even Meryl Streep or Daniel Day-Lewis couldn't make dumb-as-shit lines such as "TANGLEFOOT!" and "YAY WHOOPEE!!!' work. But more on that latter-line: often times it seemed to me like Eleanor was like some sort of awkward woman-child--which I could accept in The Little Foxes because that was what the role called for, but this time around she was playing a woman in her late twenties, and it all just felt rather garish to me that she would incorporate an immature baby-esque vibe to a character that is a woman of marrying age (again: "YAY WHOOPEE!!!"). It'd all be somewhat hilarious if it wasn't so ridiculous. But most of all, I just did not like this performance because Wright literally has nothing special to offer. Such is typically the case with supportive girlfriend/wife roles, but at the absolute very least, one often finds that the supportive girlfriend/wife provides the warmth and heart to the film--after all, it's not like she can offer much else--and this prerequisite is totally lost with Wright. I didn't find her to be interesting in the slightest--which is quite an achievement when you're starring alongside wooden 'ol Gary Cooper--and I didn't find her brand of warmth to be very effective. I couldn't care less about Eleanor, quite odd because the very purpose of this archetype is to make me care. But alas--nothing. She merely exists to smile sweetly at her husband, look concerned when her husband's in trouble, shed some tears over her husband and perhaps her wallpaper, and to wear a wide array of interesting hats.



10 comments:

  1. I'd love to disagree, but that would mean watching the movie again, which I haven't all the way through in decades, and with this review and the previous, you've soundly warned me away from it for longer!

    But I do like Wright. With Herbert Marshall and Jessie Grayson in Little Foxes (respectively, her father Horace, and Addie the maid, the real mothering influence in Xan's life), Wright came through with some much needed tenderness in a film quite top-heavy with backstabbing avarice.

    Plenty effective too in Miniver, and downright wonderful in Shadow Of A Doubt, guiding all of us along with her in her ominous realization that a hailed and feted family member might actually be a serial killer. (A Hitchcock film that The Master understandably never denied his lasting affection for.)

    Since I want to continue holding that appreciation of Wright, I think I'll take the obvious advice here, and continue avoiding Yankees.

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    1. I'm curious to see what she does in Shadow of a Doubt! I've heard good things, and I hope she offers something different besides the "i'm cute and precious, love me!" schtick.

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  2. Replies
    1. I just don't have the patience for this kind of stuff anymore!!!

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    2. Ouch indeed.

      Didn't expect this ranking, haven't seen the film, loved her in Foxes.

      :)

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  3. Underwhelming work from a great actress.

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  5. Wow! I was totally not expecting this. I'd heard mostly positive things, and I generally find Wright rather charming. Wasn't expecting a 5 or anything, but was certainly expecting her to get above Cooper at least! This makes me more interested in this but....again, ew, baseball.

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    1. I can definitely see what you mean by her being charming--I guess it's just not for me. Her style of charming comes across like an affected type of charm--very artificial and fake a la the kind of acting you see from back then and less so a natural kind of charm. The role itself here is just too much of a stock one with not enough punch for me to care or give it any more than I do here :\

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