Directed by Harmon Jones
The Pride of St. Louis comes to a bit of a surprise to me for a few reasons, but first and foremost it doesn’t occur to me that Jerome “Dizzy” Dean deserves his own movie. In the early goings of this Baseball marathon, it is apparent that the big leaguer profile is a popular style of baseball film. Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig and Monty Stratton already having seen their turn in the limelight. But those stories are quite remarkable while Dizzy’s is just a fair bit more middle of the road, which makes the resulting film about the same. Dean earning his own film would be equal to Ron from Harry Potter getting his own film, or Hawkeye from the Avengers getting his own film. Are they great characters that are central to the bigger picture? Absolutely, but their own film won’t seem to carry the same weight or level of entertainment as others. Dizzy Dean was a great player that meant an awful lot to the St. Louis Cardinals and their Gashouse Gang success, but his periphery story is not quite as compelling as Gehrig or Stratton or Robinson.
I think the story itself is the greatest detriment to the film’s success, as Dan Dailey, who plays Dizzy Dean, is pretty good at playing the undereducated but physically gifted Dean. His delivery, however, does seem to paint Dean as somewhat of a simpleton, and almost in a bad way as the film exploits his country bumpkin personality on more than one occasion to garner a laugh. As a result I couldn’t seem to tell whether I should endear him, or feel sorry for him. In many ways the simple life is admirable. He goes out there and plays a kids game, a game he loves, has fun, makes money and lives a fulfilled life. It is a similar perspective as that of Gehrig in The Pride of the Yankees, except Gehrig is Ivy League educated, but once his mother realizes the impact he is making on a number of lives, bringing happiness to children and adults alike, the profession becomes noble enough for her own aspirations. There is no motherly figure for Dean, but the result is the same, as can be seen by the impact he has as a broadcaster after his playing career.
Perhaps the difference is that Yankees did it first, and therefore the sentiment is less impactful the second time around in St. Louis. The two films are really quite similar, yet Gehrig is more interesting than Dean. Cooper is more interesting than Dailey. The Yankees are more interesting than the Cardinals. A tough film to gauge as a result, The Pride of St. Louis feels like the unofficial sequel to The Pride of the Yankees, developed for half the budget, half the cast, half the interest, and as a result half the greatness. This is the spinoff sequel, more akin to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective Jr., or Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry met Lloyd, than to the true greatness of the original. The comparison is certainly a bit too harsh, but all the same, Harmon Jones’ film falls short of the mark, even when not compared to such a great film as Yankees. It just lacks the stakes or interesting characters to fuel a truly entertaining baseball film.