CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

October 2000 Review of Hank Greenberg documentary

U.S.A. has dominated the medal race of the Sydney 2000
Olympics and there is this sense of embarrassment. We
have witnessed our Sports Representatives behave with
arrogance that our nation is being called "those Ugly
Americans" on the International Scene. What has
happened to the quiet leadership of a Jessie Owens
showing up Adolph Hitler at the 1936 Munich Olympics
with neither a boast or a brag? Truly our nation's
character is at a crossroads. "The Life & Times of
Hank Greenberg" is the best cure for Post Olympic
depression. This documentary contains more goodwill
in less than two hours than NBC has provided in the
last two weeks.

A first generation born American, Hank Greenberg was a
tall skinny kid with acne whose mother did not want
him to play baseball. Greenberg joined the Detroit
Tigers in the early 1930's as a first baseman. This
film utilizes newsreel footage of Greenberg's World
Series adventures and misadventures. While the
grainy newsreel footage lacks the in-your-face
technology of today, the visual drama and commentary
creates some compelling moments, especially for those
not familiar with baseball history. In many of the
shots, the six foot-three inch Greenberg is too tall
to fit within the frame of the camera lens.

When World War II broke out, Mr. Greenberg accepted a
49 thousand dollar pay cut and became the first
American league ball player to serve in the war
effort. Greenberg also participated in an exhibition
1943 War Bond rally to promote the manufacture of the
B-29 airplane, which he later flew over Asia.

In the Post War Years, Greenberg returned for one more
World Series victory before being traded to the
Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947. In what turned out to be
his last season, Greenberg advised Jackie Robinson on
the importance of being a role model.

The responsibility of being a role model was important
to Greenberg, who wanted to present life beyond the
Garment Center to his fellow Jews. This film takes an
unblinking look at racism and this is where
Greenberg's character rises to the occasion. He does
not wallow in the self pity of victimization, instead
it spurned Greenberg to be the best that he could be.

"The Life & Times of Hank Greenberg" is a celebration
of good things. From Mandy Pantamkin's yiddish
version of "Take me out to the Ballgame" to Bing
Crosby-Groucho Marx's version of the same tune,
Writer-Director Avina Kempner utilizes an anti
depressing musical soundtrack featuring Arty Shaw and
Benny Goodman. The interviews which propel the
narrative are both informative and entertaining. This
film is also Walter Matthau's big screen swan song.
Matthau was a boyhood friend of the "Moses of

A motion picture like "The Life & Times of Hank
Greenberg" presents the strength of the American
nation, where our destinations matter far more than
our origins. As long as we have a good time along the
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