“Give me a number and I’ll give you the guts” turned out to be a promise hard to keep. When Branch Rickey , the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers made the unprecedented and momentous decision to bring a Negro ball player into the major leagues, he altered the future outcome of American baseball. Rickey had it in his mind to change the game, prove that he still had it, and assuage a gnawing age-old guilt he harbored from his college days. And of course baseball was his life and his business and he knew the way to infuse life and money into it, was to win and win big. His eye was on the prize of the World Series.
But back to the promise…Branch Rickey planned on adding a black baseball player to his farm team, the Montreal Royals with the intention of bringing that player into the Dodgers. But not just any player; The man would have to be good, he would have to be strong, he would have to have courage and conviction, he would have to have a thick skin and he would have to want the prize as much as Rickey did. He found these characteristics and qualities in Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, a short stop playing for the Kansas City Monarchs. Rickey knew that the road ahead for this player would be fraught with every kind of discrimination that was still prevalent in our country at that time. He knew and hoped Robinson who was known to have a temper, would be able to withstand the pressures and pain that came with the number. All that Branch hoped for was, Promises made, promises kept.
In the 1940′s post-war era, baseball became and has remained as The National Pastime of the American public. People of all ages flocked to the games; It was an inexpensive and entertaining way to spend the afternoon and could also be a family affair. There were two white leagues (AL + NL) and the Negro league, each with their own style and fans and never the two to mix. That is until Branch Rickey decided to break the color barrier.
Brian Helgeland directed this film based on the significance of Jackie Robinson’s role in baseball. He extracted an excellent performance from Harrison Ford. Although at times, one might say Ford’s portrayal of Branch Rickey bordered on caricature, he was entirely believable and best of all, you forget that you are watching the former Indiana Jones. I thought there were notable performances from John C. McGinley who played the Red Barber, T. R. Knight as Harry (Harold Parott), Rickey’s right hand man, and André Holland who portrayed Wendell Smith, the sports writer for the Pittsburgh Courier, and Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese. Chadwick Boseman embodied the moody and guarded reticence of the angry young Robinson and showed us a deeply moving display of pent-up anger and frustration when Robinson was being horrendously taunted by Ben Chapman, (Alan Tudyk), the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
42 brings the injustice and ultimately the absurdity of racial discrimination once again to the forefront of our consciousness much in the same manner as The Help. We are collectively ashamed and cheered by the triumph of those oppressed characters, once again confirming the age-old adage that good triumphs over evil. Rickie predicted it himself when he said, “ We can win only if we can convince the world that I’m doing this because you’re a great ballplayer, a fine gentleman.”
I found myself tearing up during many scenes, it was emotionally moving. I Loved It!