I saw 42 over the weekend and had planned to write about it yesterday. But events here in Boston overtook all other considerations.
I know that Tracy Mehan wrote a review of 42 yesterday. But I want to add my own thoughts given that last week I wrote about the first Jackie Robinson biopic The Jackie Robinson Story which starred Robinson himself.
Despite Robinson’s presence in The Jackie Robinson Story, 42 is the definitive cinematic account of the life of Jackie Robinson.
If Jackie Robinson were still alive, I believe he would rise and give Chadwick Boseman a standing ovation. Boseman personified all of Robinson’s virtues and carried his burdens as if they were his own. Harrison Ford gives the performance of his career as Dodgers GM Branch Rickey. It is unusual for the Motion Picture Academy to give nominations to movies released in the spring. I hope the Academy has an attention span sufficient to remember Boseman and Ford’s performances. The same can be said for the film’s director, Brian Helgeland.
I also liked the fact that we got to know other figures that we didn’t get to know in The Jackie Robinson Story such as Pee Wee Reese, Eddie Stanky, Leo Durocher and Red Barber as well as adversaries such as Kirby Higbe, Dixie Walker and Ben Chapman. However, Clyde Sukeforth, the scout who signed Robinson, while in the film is never mentioned by name. Sukeforth plays a far more prominent role in The Jackie Robinson Story.
The one other quibble I had with the film was how the suspension of Leo Durocher was depicted. In the film, MLB Commissioner “Happy” Chandler calls Rickey to tell him that he will suspend Durocher for one year because of his adultery and how he does not wish to offend the Catholic Youth Organization. While Durocher’s adultery was a factor in his suspenson, it was not the main one. Durocher had been accused of associating with gamblers. If adultery were a crime in baseball, Babe Ruth would have a received a lifetime ban. If the Black Sox Scandal still hangs over MLB nearly a century after the fact, imagine how dark the cloud was just over a quarter century after the fact.
I also can’t quite imagine Ralph Branca having a conversation with Robinson about taking a shower with him even though it did make for one of the film’s more humorous moments.
But the scouting report for 42 has far more positives than negatives. One of the other things that struck me were the authencity in recreating the old ballparks especially Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. I have been told and have read many a story about how close the fans were to the field. In 42, I can see Ebbets Field in three dimensions for the very first time. It’s the next best thing to sitting next to the Dodger Sym-phony. An Oscar nomination for set design is also in order.
Whether you are a baseball fan or not, I highly recommend 42.