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Jackie Robinson And The New Movie ’42′

Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball. The new movie “42” tells the story. The director is with us.

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in the film "42" (Warner Brothers)

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in the film “42″ (Warner Brothers)

Jackie Robinson didn’t just change baseball. He changed America. When race was a wall in this country, he walked through it to play ball. In the face of white rage, he was a black man with the number 42 on his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform who –game by game – knocked deep, bitter racial stereotypes out of the park.

A big new biopic – “42,” from Warner Bros – puts the Jackie Robinson story back on the big screen. Lets us look again at the first man to break the color line in Major League Baseball.

This hour, On Point: Jackie Robinson and “42.”

-Tom Ashbrook


Brian Helgeland, director and screenwriter of the new movie “42,” out April 12th. Also the Academy-Award-winning screenwriter of “L.A Confidential,” “Mystic River,” and many other films.

David Steele, columnist for AOL Sporting News. (@david_c_steele)

From Tom’s Reading List

Associated Press “Michelle Obama said Tuesday that a new movie chronicling Jackie Robinson’s rise through Major League Baseball, including the racial discrimination he endured while breaking the sport’s color barrier in the 1940s, left her and the president ‘visibly, physically moved’ after they saw it over the weekend.”

The New York Times “What unfolds in ’42′ — written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who won a screenwriting Oscar for ‘L.A. Confidential’ (1997) — is a mostly Rockwellian portrait that feels like an old-fashioned Hollywood movie: ‘Mr. Robinson Goes to the Major Leagues.’ Harrison Ford’s Branch Rickey, the white baseball executive who brought Robinson to the majors, is gruff and avuncular. Chadwick Boseman’s Jackie Robinson is fierce and noble as he simmers and silently faces down the racists and the skeptics.”

The Wall Street Journal “In a sense, just as Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ offered a refresher course in the 13th amendment, ’42′ makes sure the details of Jackie Robinson’s challenge are ones we don’t forget. ‘The story is worth telling over and over again,’ Mr. Helgeland says. ‘I think there’s a little bit of an attitude in the country that integration is a complete success, and we don’t need to worry about it anymore.’”

Trailer for ’42′


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  • Gregg Smith

    He would be hated (especially here) today because he was the enemy of the left, a black Republican.

    • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

      I actually think his political evolution is really interesting — as you say, a Republican until the Civil Rights Act when he switched his allegiance. I hope we get to it during the hour.

      • J__o__h__n

        He neglected the important detail of the switch after the Civil Rights Act.  He also always neglects that the racist southern Democrats switched parties then too.

        • Ray in VT

          A year ago we probably could have a gotten a good dose of “the party positions now are the same as they were 100 years ago” from someone.

          • Gregg Smith

            Possibly, we certainly have a large portion of people who think racism hasn’t changed in 100 years. 

          • Ray in VT

            It’s true.  Racism has changed.  You used to just be able to come out and say how much you hate this group or that group.  Now you get criticized too much for publicly hating on minorities, so you have to fight against integration efforts and civil rights laws by standing upon states rats principles.  It’s interesting that so many of the challenges to the progress that we’ve made on some of these fronts are still being challenged by states-rights conservatives, but that’s probably just a coincidence.

          • Gregg Smith

            I find the idea an offensive generalization. It is not a matter of being afraid of being shunned, there are fewer racist. Most people don’t hate based on race. Most people don’t care. 

            Except for the left. They want to judge by the color of skin and any effort to take race out of the discussion on anything from crime to education is met with the charge of challenging progress.

            Jackie Robinson proved color doesn’t matter.   

          • Ray in VT

            So, it is an offensive generalization to paint one side of the political spectrum a certain way, but then you go on about the left?  What’s the difference?  Just that you are one and don’t like the other?

            I think that there are certainly fewer racists today than there used to be.  I don’t see a whole lot of prejudice, be it religious, ethnic or sexual, among the younger generations, although there is some, and some of those views are holding on among the older generations.

            Race, unfortunately, still does play a role in society.  To argue otherwise, or that some people get unfairly judged due to their ethnicity, just flat out flies in the face of facts.  For instance, there was a study done a number of years ago that showed that applicants with “black” names got call backs at a significantly lower rate.  If one wants to stop being alleged to be challenging progress, then perhaps one should stop challenging progress.  For instance, if there is a good, workable school system that is achieving racial and socioeconomic integration, while, at the same time, delivering good educational outcomes for all groups, then perhaps a certain movement should not be pushing to undue such a system, thereby, in some parts of the system, massively re-segregating the schools.

            Jackie may have proved that color didn’t matter on the ball field in 1947, but it took a hell of a lot of activism and Federal intervention to make sure that people like him could get a fair shake throughout this country, and most people aren’t willing to tear down those structures and let the invisible hand take it where it may, especially given where some of those policies point.

          • Gregg Smith

            The difference is you imagined  mindsets to make your implication. 

            I did not. Affirmative action is a left-wing policy that judges by the color of skin. It’s the left who says blacks are too stupid to obtain an ID. It’s the left who is on record with racism against black conservatives like Clarence Thomas or Ben Carson. 

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t see anyone saying that blacks are too stupid.  You say all the time that people say it, but I’ve yet to hear it from anyone.

            Ignoring that prejudices, both individual and to some extent instutitional have and do exist in our society is just more pie in the sky nonsense.  Maybe I am wrong, though.  Maybe small government conservatives don’t have anything against minorities.  Maybe they’re just out to screw everyone equally, and where those measures hit the poor, due to higher rates of poverty, African Americans just happen to get hit harder.  Acceptable losses I guess.  I can’t imagine why minorities don’t flock to such a party and message.

            At least the left has been willing to attempt to address and correct society’s problems, instead of just either ignoring them or attempting to perpetual them, as conservatives have long done in this country.  If it wasn’t for the left and the big, bad federal government, then who knows how long Jim Crow would have stood.

            I don’t think that many liberals have a problem with Thomas and Carson because they are black, although some in the African American community seem to think that they have betrayed, to some extent, the movement that has allowed them to reach the high levels that they have.  I find it really funny that Carson and the right are playing the race card following the criticism of his comments on gay marriage.  I guess that white people who say such things never get criticized.  What a bunch of jokers, and I am bit heartened, though, that Dr. Carson is back to apologizing for his offensive statements, rather than griping about people criticizing him.

      • Gregg Smith

        I think all of our political evolutions are interesting but the one I was referring to is the politics of personal destruction by the left when it comes to black Republicans. When did that happen? MLK jr. was also a Republican but wasn’t hated for it like, for instance, Clarence Thomas or Condi Rice.

        The politics of racism bothers me greatly. Jackie Robinson tore down the wall of perceived black inferiority. He was truly brave (even heroic) and a chief instigator of an historic turning point. We now have equality under the law. Sports are now colorblind. Pop culture has just as many black icons as white. But when it comes to politics, racism is alive and well.

        • J__o__h__n

          Assuming wikipedia is accurate:

          As the leader of the SCLC, King maintained a policy of not publicly endorsing a U.S. political party or candidate: “I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both—not the servant or master of either.”[30] In a 1958 interview, he expressed his view that neither party was perfect, saying, “I don’t think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God nor is the Democratic party. They both have weaknesses … And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.”[31]
          King critiqued both parties’ performance on promoting racial equality:
          Actually, the Negro has been betrayed by both the Republican and the Democratic party. The Democrats have betrayed him by capitulating to the whims and caprices of the Southern Dixiecrats. The Republicans have betrayed him by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of reactionary right wing northern Republicans. And this coalition of southern Dixiecrats and right wing reactionary northern Republicans defeats every bill and every move towards liberal legislation in the area of civil rights.[32]
          Although King never publicly supported a political party or candidate for president, in a letter to a civil rights supporter in October 1956 he said that he was undecided as to whether he would vote for Adlai Stevenson or Dwight Eisenhower, but that “In the past I always voted the Democratic ticket.”[33] In his autobiography, King says that in 1960 he privately voted for Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy: “I felt that Kennedy would make the best president. I never came out with an endorsement. My father did, but I never made one.” King adds that he likely would have made an exception to his non-endorsement policy for a second Kennedy term, saying “Had President Kennedy lived, I would probably have endorsed him in 1964.”[34

    • Ray in VT

      I would make sense that he would have been inclined to be a Republican growing up, if indeed he was.  That was when they were the party of Lincoln,the North, and largely the liberal party until FDR, you know, before they started groveling to white southern bigots in order to win elections.  I don’t know see anyone here attacking black Republicans for anything that white Republicans don’t take flak for.

      He broke the color barrier, and who was it was pushing for desegregation at least from the time that Truman desegregated the military through the Civil Rights Era?  Here’s a hint.  It was not the conservatives.  Many of their ilk took up the banner of “segregation now, segregation forever.”  Just another way that they were on the losing side of history, just like many are today regarding gay rights.

  • Maroloh

    My mother, born a Brooklynite in 1917,  used to tell us of the demonstrations she was part of in order to get Jackie Robinson hired by the Dodgers.

  • Maroloh

    Addition:   My impression is that a large campaign played a big role in getting him in.

  • creaker

    When winning became more important than race.

    It was a good thing he was an exceptionally exceptional player, otherwise this whole exercise would have fallen flat on its face.

    • Ray in VT

      True.  He didn’t just need to have the talent, but also the right mindset and attitude.  He needed to be able to take the abuse that was hurled at him without cracking or blowing up.

  • John Allen

    While we’re talking about Jackie Robinson, let us not forget  Marshall “Major” Taylor, world champion bicycle racer 50 years earlier, when bicycle racing was the most popular sport — a true American hero who battled prejudice as Robinson did, but in a much less supportive time — and the highest-paid athlete in the world. See http://majortaylorassociation.org

  • GinaVS

    Have you seen the play “Jackie.” Our family saw it at the Nashville Children’s Theatre. It was a wonderful intro to Jackie’s story. My children are 10, 12, 14. Did you consider children viewing the movie while you were creating it? Thank you. It sounds wonderful! I’m crying just hearing the excerpts.

  • peterdour

    One of the greatest players in the game today wears number 42, Mariano Rivera. 

  • PedrPaydrin

    No mention of the movie from the 1950s’, The Jackie Robinson Story, in which Jackie Robinson plays himself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.floyd1 Mike Floyd

     Robinson played for Brooklyn, Rivera plays for the Yankees…sigh

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