Thursday, April 11, 2013

"42" a Fitting Tribute to Jackie Robinson, American Hero

Inspiration and Despair Can be Found in This Week’s Films

By Skip Sheffield

If you need inspiration, there are two fine candidates opening in area theaters. If you are entirely too joyful, Hollywood has something that will bring you right down.
First, the bright side: “42” is the number of the Brooklyn Dodgers jersey worn by the late Jackie Robinson. It is also the story of Robinson’s courageous fight to break the “color barrier” in major league baseball back in 1947.
Robinson did not face the challenges of hateful bigotry alone. It was Dodgers owner Branch Rickey who really put his money and his reputation where his mouth was. Robinson had a strong, supportive (and in the movie quite beautiful) wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie). He was cheered on by pioneering black sports journalist, Wendell Smith (Andre Holland).
Branch Rickey is played with great conviction by Harrison Ford, who obviously admires his character. Jackie Robinson is played by charismatic newcomer Chadwick Boseman; an exceedingly handsome young man with a certain star quality, like the character he played.
The screenplay is by Brian Helgeland who is making his directorial debut. Helgeland’s impressive writing credits include “Mystic River” and “L.A. Confidential.” Here he carefully establishes the character of Jackie Robinson, a man with great pride, a hot temper and undeniable natural gifts.
It was Branch Rickey who hand-picked Robinson from the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs in 1946. The story follows Robinson through a kind of apprenticeship in Montreal and thence to a Sanford, Florida training camp, where Robinson confronted the ugly, violent and cruel face of racism. The characters don’t mince words to get their point across. We watch Robinson boil over and at one point explode over pointed insults.
Branch Rickey was a devout Christian of the Methodist faith. So was Jackie Robinson.
Rickey appealed to Robinson to follow the example of Jesus and turn his cheek, no matter what the provocation.
Cynics will find “42” a little tool sanctimonious and rah-rah, but the point is this stuff really happened. Talent and character won out over bigotry and hatred. Robinson went on to become one of the finest players in baseball history. This film is a fitting tribute to his memory and legacy.

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