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Jackie Robinson Day Celebrated Nationwide

'42' Film Honors Barrier-Breaking Ballplayer, Portrayed by HU Graduate

Stacy M. Brown | 4/17/2013, 9 p.m.
Chadwick Boseman portrays Jackie Robinson in the film "42." (Courtesy Photo)

As Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson's career and legacy, a new film about the legendary Brooklyn Dodger who broke the sport's color line in 1947, is being hailed as a home run by moviegoers, critics, baseball fans and the late second baseman's family members.

The film, "42," released nationwide April 11, grossed a whopping $27.3 million in its first weekend of release, a grand slam for the national pastime. Industry observers expect the film to soon reach the magical $100 million mark, far surpassing the $40 million it took to produce the movie.

"Notably, '42,' earned a rare A+ CinemaScore grade from polled audiences, thereby joining the ranks of [movies] like 'The Help,' 'The Blind Side,' and 'Titanic,'" said Entertainment Weekly's film critic Grady Smith.

Most importantly, it's as authentic as any previously told biography, Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson said.

"My family and I are excited about the movie. It does a good job of highlighting the resistance and prejudice that my father faced," said Robinson, 63. "The movie also could help people discuss the lack of equal opportunity as well."

The film brilliantly captures an era in Major League Baseball and in American history.

Dodgers' general manager Branch Rickey cut an eyebrow-raising, race-defining deal that brought Robinson to the majors, making the Georgia native the first black player in the game's history.

The 120-minute movie features Howard University graduate Chadwick Boseman as the defiant Robinson and Harrison Ford as Rickey, the Dodgers' general manager who signed the would-be Hall of Famer. Boseman, 31, received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2004 from Howard, and went on to study at the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford in Regents Park in London.

The story focuses primarily on the Dodgers' 1947 season, but also explores the 1946 season that Robinson spent with Brooklyn's minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals.

The stinging discrimination experienced by Robinson and depicted in the film included a stop with the Royals at a gas station in which he was refused entry into the "washroom."

Some of his teammates protest and threaten to travel to another station, but the owner relents and allows the black player to use the facilities.

As Robinson walks out of the "washroom," a Dodgers' team official greets him with a contract worth $4,100 to play in the majors. "On one condition," the official said to Robinson. "If you can control that temper," he said. Following a pregnant pause, Robinson agrees.

The following season, Robinson is subjected to taunts, blows to the head by opposing pitchers and rule-breaking slides into second base by other players, causing the Dodger injuries but still, he was game enough to continue.

In that pre-civil rights era, Robinson was forced to endure harsh and cruel discrimination and threats from both inside and outside of his own clubhouse.

"The ugliness of the time and its language are not pink-painted over in the film," celebrity writer Roger Friedman said.

The movie takes a complex story of race, history and sports and places a microscopic eye on the most important moments of the mid-20th century.