Movie Reviews of The Jackie Robinson Story and 42

Monday, April 20, 2020

Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2020

Since last Wednesday was Jackie Roosevelt Robinson Day, I have been watching everything that I could on the most influential baseball player ever.

Although Babe Ruth changed American culture from 1914 to 1935, he did not change American society. Ruth, from a troubled home in Baltimore, was the first power-hitting superstar. He enjoyed life to the fullest. His undisciplined off-field behavior undoubtedly affected his marvelous 22-year Major-League career.

Hundreds of thousands of baseball fans loved Ruth. Of course, Hollywood made many movies about Ruth. No one should honor Ruth even though he perhaps might have been the best baseball player. However, he had no self-control. He frequently overate, especially hot dogs, and drank too many beers. He chased women while married. The Yankees’ management had nightmares trying Ruth, but his innate baseball abilities made the Yankees keep him. Even now, every baseball fan knows the name of Babe Ruth. Although Ruth never played for the Dodgers, my favorite team, I wrote a research paper on him as a sixth grader.

Whereas Ruth provided America entertainment, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson provided American society a social conscience. If Branch Rickey as Brooklyn Dodger president and the general manager did not allow Robinson to break the color barrier, no one knows how long Major League Baseball would take to integrate the game.

Rickey chose Robinson carefully to break the color barrier. Unlike most players in the Negro Leagues, Robinson had a college education and experience dealing with whites. He did not move back to the bus at Camp Hood, showing his willingness to fight against segregation.

Rickey hoped Robinson, who had a known temper, could control temper in face of unimaginable racial abuse. Although Robinson accomplished this difficult task, many people think to exhibit this extreme self-discipline shortened his life. However, Robinson had diabetes for about twenty years when he died at 53 in 1972.

Hollywood has made two movies about Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. Hollywood might have made more, but I don’t know. The Jackie Robinson in 1950 and 42 in 2013 were free if a person was an Amazon Prime member, so I watched both Saturday night.

I disliked The Jackie Robinson Story though Robinson played himself expertly. The movie did not show accurately the prejudice that Robinson faced. I did like it when it showed Mac Robinson, Jackie’s older brother who was a college graduate and a medal-winning Olympian, was doing an unskilled job for the City of Pasadena.

Robinson wanted to be a coach, but no school would hire him though he was an excellent sports star both at Pasadena City College and UCLA. The movie downplayed the importance of Rickey and Robinson’s wife, Rachael. The movie had all the hidden prejudices of the times. It was geared towards the children, attempting to show them if they could overcome any obstacle if they worked hard and conforming to society.

42 was much better in my opinion. Without the support of Rickey and Rachel, Robinson probably could not have been successful in breaking the color barrier. The film showed more racial abuse that Robinson endured than the previous movie. Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey was marvelous and made the character as a real dynamic character. The movie showed how Robinson’s teammates disliked the idea of playing with a black man.

The movie also showed other things the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers had endured. Their manager Leo Durocher was suspended a year because he gambled and had an affair with a married actress. Rickey located another manager Burt Shotton who didn’t wear a Dodger uniform because he promised his wife wouldn’t wear another baseball uniform. Both Durocher and Shotton were huge supporters of Robinson since they knew Robinson could help the team win a pennant.

The film accelerated the acceptance of Robinson by his teammates, but it was okay because the film was about 1½ hours, so 42 couldn’t show everything accurately. The movie ended when the Dodgers won the National League pennant and showing how much Jackie loved Rachel.

If you haven’t seen 42, I highly recommend you take the time to do so, but please don’t waste your time on The Jackie Robinson Story unless you are curious about what Robinson looked like.

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