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  • the 1938 western Rawhide was baseball great Lou Gehrig's only feature film appearance?

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2004 Alpha Video cover
Directed by Ray Taylor
Produced by Sol Lesser
Written by Jack Natteford and Daniel Jarrett
Starring Lou Gehrig
Smith Ballew
Evalyn Knapp
Music by Michael Breen
Cinematography Allen Q. Thompson
Editing by Robert O. Crandall
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Release date(s) April 1938
Running time 58 min.
Country  United States
Language English

Rawhide is a 1938 western film made by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. It was directed by Ray Taylor and produced by Sol Lesser from a screenplay by Jack Natteford and Daniel Jarrett. The cinematography was by Allen Q. Thompson. It is the only Hollywood movie in which baseball great Lou Gehrig made a screen appearance, playing himself as a vacationing ballplayer visiting his sister Peggy (played by Evalyn Knapp) on a ranch in the fictional town of Rawhide, Montana.[1] The film remains available on DVD and VHS formats.



The storyline revolves around Lou Gehrig playing himself, who decides to give up baseball in New York for the life of a western cattle rancher. Once at the ranch, Gehrig encounters a protection racket preying on the ranchers by extortion and violence. He teams up with a crusading local attorney to fight the crooks and ultimately put them in jail.

In the opening scene, Lou Gehrig is surrounded by a group of reporters at Grand Central Terminal in New York City, where he is about to take a train to his sister's ranch out west in Rawhide. Proclaiming that he is "through with baseball", he tells the sceptical newsmen that he wants the "peace and quiet" of the cowboy life.[2]

Gehrig plays an easygoing dude rancher, whose self-deprecating humor is displayed the first time he attempts to ride a horse. As he timidly approaches his steed, a ranch hand urges, "Jus' walk right up to him like ya' wasn't afraid", to which Gehrig deadpans, "I couldn't be that deceitful".[2]

An unscrupulous interloper, Ed Saunders, and his henchmen have seized control of the local "Ranchers Protective Association" by subterfuge and are using it as a front to extort outrageous "association fees" from the local ranchers, resorting to violence and bribery. After Gehrig refuses to pay, one of his ranch hands is shot by one of the crooks. Gehrig storms into the local saloon to confront Saunders and his gang. When a barroom brawl ensues, the attorney (played by co-star Smith Ballew) joins in the fight as Gehrig hurls billiard balls at the criminals. The movie eventually reaches a climax in the obligatory western film chase scene when Gehrig and the other ranchers form a posse to chase the fleeing Saunders gang and put them in jail.

The film has several musical interludes. Ballew sings When a Cowboy Goes to Town by Albert von Tilzer (who also composed the familiar Take Me Out to the Ball Game). Other songs credited are Cowboy's Life by Charles Rosoff, Drifting also by von Tilzer, and That Old Washboard Band by Norman Phelps.[2]


Filming took place in January 1938 during the baseball off-season.[3] Other actors in the film are Arthur Loft, who plays the villain Ed Saunders, Dick Curtis, his henchman, and Cy Kendall, the corrupt sheriff.

Rawhide premiered in March 1938 in St. Petersburg, Florida while the New York Yankees were in town for their annual spring training at Al Lang Field. The occasion was celebrated by a gala parade complete with local marching bands and fireworks.[1] Led by the Florida resort town's mayor and baseball booster, Al Lang (in whose honor the stadium would later be renamed), other parade participants included Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, Yankees manager Joe McCarthy, and Frankie Frisch, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals (who also trained in St. Petersburg at the time). The New York Times informed readers that when the parade reached the theater's lobby, "Two-Gun Lou, spurs and all, will be on the receiving line to shake the hands of distinguished guests".[4] The film was released in general distribution to movie theaters on April 8, 1938.[3] Later, the New York City-born Gehrig would joke that it was the first time he had ever been on a horse.[1]

Subsequent research

Researchers presented a paper to the American Academy of Neurology in 2006, reporting on an analysis of Rawhide and photographs of Lou Gehrig from the 1937–1939 period, to ascertain when Gehrig began to show visible symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the disease that would force his retirement from baseball in 1939 and eventually claim his life in 1941. They concluded that while atrophy of hand muscles could be detected in 1939 photographs of Gehrig, no such abnormality was visible at the time the movie was made. "Examination of Rawhide showed that Gehrig functioned normally in January 1938", the report concluded.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Robinson, Ray (1990). Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig in His Time. New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 231–232. ISBN 0393028577.  
  2. ^ a b c Rawhide. [DVD]. Alpha Video. 2004. ISBN 8921844739.  
  3. ^ a b "Overview for Rawhide (1938)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2008-04-22.  
  4. ^ John Kieran (March 23, 1938). "Two-Gun Gehrig, in Person and a Picture". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-30.  
  5. ^ "Lou Gehrig, Rawhide, and 1938". American Academy of Neurology. 2006-07-13. Retrieved 2008-04-22.  

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