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The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg

review by Zach B.


Rated PG

Running Time: 95 minutes

Written and Directed by Aviva Kempner

Studio: Fox

Retail Price: $29.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director/Writer/Editor Aviva Kempner, Hank Greenberg Stats, Filmmaker's Biography, Additional Interviews, Director's Notes, Reviews, Hank Greenberg Biography, Trailer

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 2.0, English Subtitles, Yiddish Subtitles (in English transliteration), Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection

Released: October 16th, 2001

I'd say I'm a pretty big sports fan, and I do really enjoy baseball. I also happen to really like documentaries. I also happen to be Jewish, which I do talk about here and there on the site. While there aren't too many professional athletes out there who are Jewish, Hank Greenberg is probably one of the most memorable players out there who happens to be of the Jewish faith. While he was before my time, I have heard of him before as he has quite a rich history. Family members of mine (the older ones basically) remember him quite well. While I really related to this documentary since I am Jewish, and the themes that it brought, anyone can get something out of it and really enjoy it. This really does rank as one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. With old interviews, film clips and a variety of footage, it's very informative, offers a lot of perspective and is really, really entertaining. This documentary just sucked me right in.

So who was Hank Greenberg exactly? Again, he was baseball's first Jewish star who played during the 1930s. This documentary, which took over a decade to complete, literally offers the whole history of Greenberg pretty much. While I didn't know so much about him, I learned a tremendous amount. I don't know why, but people don't really know who he is. With a strong batting average and nearly breaking some famous world records, it baffles me somewhat why he's not looked upon highly as an "old school" star. He was really an incredible player.

Despite his good looks and his drive to succeed, poor old Hank faced a tremendous amount of anti-Semitism. It was a bad era for Jews when he did play, but this documentary shows him moving forward and trying to not let remarks get to him. This documentary, as also said, covers pretty much everything. People idolizing this sports great, his schooling, his playing and how his baseball career came to an end. Many personalities are interviewed here about the man, including the late great Walter Matthau, Detroit News sports columnist Joe Falls and all sorts of others. Kempner has done a tremendous job here. She edited, directed and wrote this film all by herself. Her effort truly shows, as she presents a seamless documentary about an incredible man. This really is one of the best documentaries I've seen. Go out and check this documentary out, no matter what. Even if you don't like baseball, it's still worth seeing. It's highly engrossing and it captures so much. It brims with quality. Very impressive... don't ignore this one. And then tell your friends and spread the history of Hank. This is one for the library. Brilliantly executed and detailed. I expect a lot of older baseball fans to enjoy this one.

Presented in its original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio, the documentary has an old look to it and due to the variety of sources, the quality varies. There's a lot of old newsreel footage, old film footage and filmed interviews. There are scratches and blemishes as expected, but this direct to film transfer ruins the look of what seems to be videotaped interviews. Still, none of this is ever distracting. A lot is meant to be this way. So, it's fine for what it is... and you won't notice this documentary really grabs hold of you.


An English stereo track is included. It's decent. Basically, the new stuff is crisper and the older stuff is more distorted and harder to hear. But I didn't find anything too hard to hear... you can understand what people are saying and what's being heard a very good deal of the time. It's just the sources used, so it all depends. Spanish and English subtitles are included, plus Yiddish ones in their English transliteration (YES!).


This is no bare bones release, thankfully. The Audio Commentary with Aviva Kempner is pretty great. It's straight forward, it has a great flow and it's rather insightful. Kempner offers a lot more background information on the times and her subject, and while I wish there was more focus on making the documentary, she sits down and doesn't stop. Worth hearing for sure.

Additional Interviews, I guess, are stuff that didn't make the documentary (it's all fully edited). The interviews are all scratchy and look terrible... but it's still worth watching. Hal Newhouser, Walter Matthau, Harry Eisenstat and others are featured here.

The rest is basically text. Hank Greenberg Stats, a Hank Greenberg Biography (very well written) plus a Filmmaker's Biography on Kempner and her well-written and fascinating Director's Notes. There are four Reviews you can read (from the San Fransisco Chronicle, The Dallas Observer, USA Today Baseball Weekly and Entertainment Weekly) plus a Trailer.

"The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg" is an astounding, entertaining and really informative documentary. While the presentation is average, this isn't a film that's supposed to show off your home theater. It just fits. The supplements are great. Again, this is one title worth looking into for sure. Don't ignore it!

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)




(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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