The Warner Brothers film “42”, which will be released Friday, April 12, 2013, is the inspiring story of Jackie Robinson, played by Chadwick Boseman, an African American baseball player who became the first of his race to play in Major League Baseball, breaking the color barrier that had previously existed.
Based on a true story, (which I know is obvious to most readers, as it is to most viewers of the film, but still pointed out) it begins with Branch Rickey, President and General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, played by Harrison Ford, determined to find an African American player that can first play in the minor leagues, then the Majors. As Rickey looks through a list of Negro League players that would be familiar to baseball fans, he selects Robinson for many reasons, one being his past of playing with white players as a student-athlete at UCLA.
In a historic meeting that was well documented, Rickey and Robinson met when the icon was still a member of the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. “Are you looking for a Negro who is afraid to fight back”, Robinson asked Rickey, who replied he was looking for a player “with guts enough not to fight back.” With that, the pair agreed on a contract, and history was made off the baseball diamond.
The film shows numerous situations in which Robinson experience discrimination based on his race, including on the field from opposing players, in the dugout and locker room from teammates, from neighbors, and from hotels that wouldn’t allow him to stay. One can only imagine what type of toll this would take on someone who probably had issues of discrimination every day, sometimes every hour or even more frequently, of his life.
Boseman is good in the role as Robinson, and his on-screen chemistry with Nicole Beharie, who plays Rachel Robinson, is phenomenal. Harrison Ford, as Rickey, is almost unrecognizable in the role, and the supporting cast, which includes Christopher Meloni of Law and Order SVU fame, as Leo Durocher.
I think the greatest feat that “42” will accomplish is the desire for many to learn more about Robinson and his plight, something that would be impossible for anyone who isn’t African American and didn’t live through that era to imagine. It is also interesting, and perhaps planned, that the film is being released a few days prior to Jackie Robinson Day, which is April 15. All Major League Baseball players wear the number 42, a fitting tribute to a man who accomplished a lot on the field, and even more off. The film “42” accomplishes a lot as well, and, hopefully, like it did with myself, it inspires people of all ages and races to learn more about the man who inspired the film.