Picks and Pans Review: Joe Dimaggio: the Hero's Life

updated 05/08/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/08/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Mon., May 8, 9 p.m. ET)

Show of the week

Aloofness was a big part of the late Joe DiMaggio's mystique. "The more he retreated, the more our hunger for him grew," says narrator and cowriter Richard Ben Cramer (author of a forthcoming DiMaggio book) in this provocative American Experience documentary, which is as much an essay on hero worship as a biography of a New York Yankees great. The film depicts DiMaggio as a nonpareil athlete who paid the price of fame—loss of privacy, unceasing pressure from the public and the press—but gradually learned to make himself a commodity, placing a dollar value on every smooth move. Like his second wife, Marilyn Monroe, he saw his life consumed by his image. Fans may prefer a baseball highlight reel to a portrait of their idol as lonely, guarded and mercenary. But this film isn't playing games.

Bottom Line: Extra-base hit

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