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Robinson made history as the first black man to play on a major league baseball
team, but he titled his autobiography (which has just been reissued)
I Never Had It Made. That and the
experiences dramatized in this new film give us some idea of what the talented
young athlete went through when he was recruited by Brooklyn Dodgers general
manager Branch Rickey.

Rickey knew
that hiring a black player was the right thing to do, and a good business move
at the same time. He also knew what kind of man it would take to endure the
challenges and humiliations of being the first man of color in an all-white
baseball league. Newcomer Chadwick Boseman does a fine job as Robinson, who not
only had to win over racist fans, team owners and managers but some of his own
teammates, as well. His skill and strength of character did just that, one
convert at a time.

performance is said to be an accurate impression of the colorful Rickey, but
it’s a bit too calculated for my taste. It may just be that I can’t easily
accept the familiar Ford as this likably eccentric individual. Either way, the
performance adds a note of Hollywood corn to an otherwise straightforward
telling of this groundbreaking story. Nevertheless, writer-director Brian
Helgeland brings it all home because the raw material is just so strong.

I’ve become gun-shy about trusting any film
that’s telling a true story, so I don’t know how accurate 42 is; diehard baseball fans will know better than I. But it does
hit the essential points of a great American saga, one that every young person
ought to know and some of us older viewers ought to know better. That’s what
matters most. 


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