Times of Tumult

The first ballplayer to earn $100,000, Greenberg spent the 1938 season chasing Babe Ruth's home-run record. Dershowitz expresses gratitude that Greenberg fell two short. Better he be perceived as hitting his homers against Hitler—Greenberg was the first baseball star to join the army, enlisting even before Pearl Harbor. Although scarcely observant, Greenberg was both a paradigm of Jewish pride and proof of Jewish acceptance in America. In this, his equivalent is Bess Myerson, a somewhat younger daughter of the Bronx who, declared Miss America in September 1945, symbolized the post-World War II transformation of the immigrant Jew from "oriental" Other to white American. Ignominiously traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Greenberg played his last season in 1947, as Jackie Robinson embarked on his first—a historical coincidence that Kempner usefully illuminates.

A suspense film with a transcendentalist backbeat: Dharkar and Vishwas in The Terrorist
photo: Phaedra Cinema
A suspense film with a transcendentalist backbeat: Dharkar and Vishwas in The Terrorist


The Terrorist
Directed by Santosh Sivan
Written by Sivan, Ravi Deshpande, and Vijay Deveshwar
A Phaedra Cinema release
At the Screening Room January 14 through 20

The Edge of the World
Written and directed by Michael Powell
A Milestone Films release
At Film Forum January 14 through 20

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
Written and directed by Aviva Kempner
A Cowboy Booking International release
At Film Forum Through January 25

Treating its hero as sui generis, Kempner's film ignores the existence of the Jewish strongman Zisha Breitbart, contemporary boxers like heavyweight champ Max Baer, quarterback Sid Luckman, and even the period's other Jewish ballplayers (Moe Berg, "Harry the Horse" Danning, Sid Gordon), let alone the longing for Jewish power expressed in the Zionist call for new Muskeljuden. In the absence of any greater cultural context, the ritual reiteration of Greenberg's greatness grows wearisome. Full of fans, family, and too much "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," Hank Greenberg is a cozy affair that leaves the impression of a filmmaker too close to the material.

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