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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dan's Discs--42: The Jackie Robinson Story

Happy All-Star Game Tuesday!
Tonight is the 84th Mid-Summer Classic between the American and National Leagues.
It's also a perfect day for '42' on DVD because Jackie Robinson was a six time All-Star.

'42' is not a great film because it is only a small portion of an incredible story.
As you may know, Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.
When he joined the Brooklyn Dodge in 1947 he changed the sport forever and for the better.
'42' is a nice attempt to showcase Robinson's journey into pro baseball, but the film is too polished.

We get the basic story of Robinson's baseball career and how Branch Rickey, the General Manger of the Dodgers, signed him because he knew Robinson could handle all of the horrors he would have to endure while trying to break the color barrier. We see the people and attitudes that Robinson had to deal with and it all plays out in the most obvious and cursory ways. It shiny, Hollywood mush, but I still think it would be a good film to show younger baseball fans because it (somewhat) delivers a message that they can understand.

However, being a lifelong fan of Mr. Robinson, I know that there is so much more to his story.
I would have loved to seen a full bio-pic that followed his high school days, his career at UCLA where he was a National Champion in Track and Field (also, his older brother was a silver medalist at the 1936 Olympics). In addition to track, Robinson played football, basketball and tennis. It was said that baseball was once his worst sport.

Then his military service, which was another forum in which Robinson affected change. While in the Army, he and other black applicants were basically denied entry in the Officer Training School because of their race. Boxing legend Joe Louis aided Robinson in his protests and eventually Robinson completed the school. 

In his post baseball career, Robinson remained a champion of the civil rights movement and was a fierce advocate for the hiring of black managers and coaches in baseball. Also while he was still in the majors, he played himself in a bio-pic 'The Jackie Robinson Story' (full film below). I've actually seen this a few times and it's pretty good. It's also awesome that he played himself in a real movie. Could you imagine if that happened today? If they made 'The LeBron Story' starring LeBron James? The internet would explode.

'42' gives us the CliffsNotes version of his first year in baseball, but missed out on an opportunity to tell the life story of an American hero. Jackie Robinson was much more than the man who broke baseball's color barrier, but the film is sadly limited to that event. However, it still packs an emotional punch and can introduce people to a truly important man. 

Now, let's go American League!

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