Writer/director Brian Helgeland has done us a great service bringing this riveting true story to the screen. And if Harrison Ford does not get a nomination for his portrayal of Branch Rickey, then the Force is not with the Academy.
I took my son last night to see 42, because I’d seen the promos and knew this great story was being treated accurately and forcefully. I also wanted my son to know more about the struggles of Black Americans and the tremendous courage of one man who overcame horrendous adversity.
There is a tendency in our country to compare the African experience with other immigrant groups. There is no comparison, for one simple reason: Africans were treated as less than human, while other groups were not. That treatment was so cruel and so vicious over such a long period of time, it is a miracle any healing occurred, and it is thanks to people like Robinson and Rickey that the miracle was carried forward.
What shines about 42 is the way we are introduced to Jackie and his wife Rachel: two beautiful young people, just starting out, shielded somewhat from racism living in California, then thrust deep into the dark heart of racial discrimination and hatred.
Baseball legend Robinson played the game honorably, and better than most, but he did so much more. Thanks to the opportunity provided by Rickey to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson broke the strangle hold of racism throughout the country. He was the first Black major league player, and that meant he was the first to face the fire. He never accepted mistreatment, and he never made excuses either, never playing the victim or backing away from the challenge, despite not knowing his father, forced to emerge from very humble beginnings.
In his first season he broke records, including being the most hit by pitches standing in the batting box. But the physical assaults were nothing compared to the vile things shouted from the stands. from the opposing dugout, and from some of his own teammates, although others rallied to his cause.
Through it all Robinson demonstrated that decent-minded people with a higher vision need never submit to hate and ignorance, or respond in kind. Early on, when recruited by Rickey, Robinson asked what he should do under the pressure, and Rickey replied, “Do what our Savior did: turn the other cheek.” And like Dr. King who came later, Robinson overcame with guts and God, putting racists to shame.