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by Dr. D ~

Theatre Release: April 12, 2013 by Warner Bros; PG-13 (themes and language); Historical Drama; Directed By: Brian Helgeland; Cast: Chadwick Boseman, T.R. Knight, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie

42 is a movie that should be seen for many different reasons. First of all it is a very good movie (but not quite great) with a number of redeeming characteristics. It has a couple of real-life heroes, a love story, and a villain or two along with a great cause. It is the real life story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major league Baseball in 1947.

The story takes us back to a time in America right after WWII. Most think of that era as one of the greatest when the country was still essentially Christian and the culture reflected a basic Biblical morality. But there were major moral failings and flaws even in ‘the greatest generation’ and this movie exposes one big one- racism.

In one scene, Jackie and his wife are introduced to the separate bathroom facilities for ‘Whites’ only on a trip to Florida to join the team. There were no separate facilities for different races in California where they came from so it was a problem.

The scene takes me back personally to 1962 when I went to Alabama and spent the summer with my sister and brother-in-law. I came from California where I had attended integrated schools and thought nothing of it. On one occasion I almost drank from the ‘wrong’ water fountain but one scene still haunts me from that trip. One morning my sister and I were walking on the sidewalk down main street in that small town when an older black gentleman stepped clear off the sidewalk to let us pass. Then a couple of younger white ‘gentlemen’ sitting in front of a store yelled out to the man- “That’s right (n-word deleted) you don’t belong on the sidewalk anyway- you stay off now” –I was shocked and saddened and still am today every time I remember the sad look on the older gentleman’s face.

America still has a ways to go when it comes to racism but we have also come a long ways since 1947 and 1962. The movie drops us back into those times when change was just beginning and major league baseball was for ‘Whites only’ and it is a shock and that is one of the salient points of the movie.

Harrison Ford does such a fine job recreating the Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey that one forgets all about some of his former roles. Rickey was a Bible thumping Christian who in real life refused to attend his own home games on Sundays. In the movie some of the flavor of his faith comes out on a number of occasions where he is quoting the Bible and telling Robinson to ‘turn the other cheek’ like Jesus taught and to go though suffering ‘like our Lord.’

Chadwick Boseman does an excellent job portraying Jackie Robinson. The film shows him to be a man of great character that endured a lot and kept his anger in check for the cause. One thing the movie didn’t really show was the origin or basis of his strength which we know from other sources came from a deep abiding Christian faith. It was implied but not demonstrated to any degree.

It s also a love story that shows the Robinson’s getting married and it shows them coping together with a new life under a microscope. As much as Jackie had to have been a strong moral person to survive the changing times they were involved in, obviously Jackie’s wife Rachel (played by Nicole Beharie) was also and gave much needed support to her husband behind the scenes.

One other situation demonstrated the changes we have gone through in America and this one not so much for the better. There was a scene with Dodger manager Leo Durocher in bed with a blonde bombshell (Marilyn Monroe?) when Branch Rickey calls to see what he thinks about adding Robinson to the team for the next season. Rickey notes that the manager would need to control the responses of the team to the new player and they needed to be guided by the Biblical principle of doing good to ones neighbor. Durocher responds that he doesn’t know much about the Bible but if Jackie will help them win then he doesn’t care what color he is -even pink. Then Branch quips that adultery is also in the Bible as he finishes the call and the camera shows the blonde starlet climbing all over Durocher.  A few days later Branch Rickey gets a phone call from the Commissioner of Baseball informing the General Manager that Durocher was going to be suspended and out of baseball for a year because of adultery and complaints from a Christian organization in America.

Can you imagine that happening in any professional sport today? I guess it was okay for Christian sensibilities and American culture at the time that black folks were treated different than whites and but they drew the line when it came to open adultery?

The movie follows Jackie through his first season in the minor leagues with Montreal and then on to the major leagues with the  Dodgers.  It shows the controversy among his own teammates at the time and the abuse he had to take on the field from other players and from the fans. Along the way, the tide changes and Jackie wins over most of his teammates and the people in the stands. So America was changed forever beginning when number 42 took the field.            *Top

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