Even a person not especially interested in what used to be
called the national pastime couldn’t help but be amused by a
picture on the subject like this one, which which begins with a
Yiddish rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Aviva
Kempner has made a nice, appreciative and thoroughly professional
documentary about the first Jewish star in the Major Leagues.
Including excerpts from nearly fifty interviews with
Greenberg and his relations, as well as with his fellow players,
sports commentators, and fans, some of them as celebrated as
Walter Matthau and Alan Dershowitz (along with a good deal of
footage providing period color), “The Life and Times of
Hank Greenberg” is very well put together, moves briskly, and
makes some telling points about anti-Semitism and other forms
of prejudice in the America of the 1930s and 1940s.
It also helps that, on the evidence provided here, Greenberg
was an extraordinarily classy fellow–articulate, intelligent,
patriotic and compassionate. It’s hard not simply to like him.
Of course, as the generic title itself indicates, the film
isn’t in any way innovative or surprising, either in content
or style. But it’s an excellent example of the kind of sound,
conventional documentary that’s consistently interesting and
informative, even if it never tries anything new.