The names Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, Red Barber, Leo Durocher, and Pee Wee Reese belong to people out of my past who were heroes to baseball lovers throughout the country at that time. To have them all characterized in one film in today’s world is a phenomenal undertaking .and a privilege to watch.
Most of the action in “42” takes place during the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers season with some scenes depicting Robinson’s first season in 1946 when he played for the Dodgers’ farm team, the Montreal Royals.
Jackie Robinson was the first African American signed to play Major League Baseball in this country at a time when race relations were at their lowest ebb. The man who wore #42 on his uniform is undoubtedly unknown to a generation of young adults coming up today, but he is legend.
It was team executive Branch Rickey’s idea to bring the first Negro into organized baseball. The reason he gave to Jackie Robinson was that a similar situation existed in his career in his younger days and he had done nothing to promote the talented athlete out of fear of criticism at that time.
The role of Branch Rickey, played so well by Harrison Ford, is probably the only role which might cause Oscar buzz. Ford obviously did a great deal of research on Branch Rickey’s character. His mannerisms, facial expressions, country bumpkin persona, even his plastered-down 40’s hair style, all seem to be the product of a serious immersion in the role he was asked to play.
Chadwick Boseman, in the role of Jackie Robinson, is extremely believable, particularly in his portrayal of athleticism on the field. We are also given a look at Jackie’s softer side as he interacts with his girlfriend Rachel, played by beauty Nicole Beharie. Rachel became his wife in later scenes in the movie and eventually the mother of their three children.
The most poignant scenes in the film portray an actual event that occurred during a game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies. Phillies Manager Ben Chapman began harassing Jackie when he was up at bat, calling him “nigger’ and badgering him unmercifully. Jackie had been
forewarned by Rickey that he would face hostility and would have to exercise restraint in order to succeed in their plan to break the color barrier. Rickey told him to let his talent do the talking on the field. We learned in the credits at the end that Ben Chapman lost his job because of the incident and never worked in baseball again.
Jackie Robinson’s #42 was forever retired due to the courage he displayed as the first Negro to play on a Major League Baseball team. In the very next season, more Negro players were signed to play in the Major Leagues.
42 – The Story of Jackie Robinson (2013)