Starting today, probably the biggest baseball story of the last century is being re-told in your local movie theater… via a little baseball film simply called 42. What does a baseball movie have to do with Politisite, you might say? A lot actually. Jackie Robinson, the amazing wall-breaker of Major League Baseball is a man who many don’t know much about except for what he did at the ripe age of 28. That is not to minimize anything that Jackie Robinson did during that momentous baseball season of 1947 and the tumult he, his teammates and his Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey went through. I make this point to highlight the fact that it would seem that his life began and ended in one baseball season. Well, it didn’t.
Jackie Robinson, after integrating Major League Baseball and at the same time displaying incredible courage, fortitude and focus… did much, much more. After finishing out a very successful baseball career, Jackie went into business for himself and became a very respected leader in Republican politics. Yes, Republican politics. For Jackie Robinson was much of his life… a Republican. He even supported Eisenhower in the 1950s and for Richard Nixon in 1960. Did you ever hear of this before? Probably not. I did not know about Jackie Robinson being a Republican until my documentary film, FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN, was underway and I happened to visit ABC News’ Video Archives in search of footage to use for our film. While using ABC’s database search system, I typed in “1964 GOP Convention” in order to find some old news footage we could consider for our film. Well, a good number of clips came up but one jumped off the page. “Jackie Robinson Criticizes Goldwater at 1964 GOP Convention – San Francisco, CA.” In this clip, Jackie (a life-long Republican) was interviewed and stated the following in response to an ABC News question on supporting the GOP Presidential Candidate… Senator Barry Goldwater who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act:
“Anyone… who came out openly for Senator Goldwater as a Presidential nominee… any Negro… would have a most difficult time living among Negroes. Because people would not support… anyone who expresses the kind of Uncle Tomism that we feel would go with the support of a… Senator Goldwater.”
With that comment, Jackie Robinson marked his break with the Republican Party as he knew it to be and in that year’s Presidential Election received only 6% of the Black Vote. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, the electoral situation hasn’t gotten much better in the nearly fifty years since.
How does this all fit in with a review of the new film, 42? When you see the film, you will see little hints of the Republican Party and Conservatism in many turns. The Abraham Lincoln busts in Branch Rickey’s office; the expressed Methodist religious beliefs of Branch Rickey (played by the great Harrison Ford) and why he signed and played Jackie Robinson; the “Jim Crow” South of the Dixiecrat-era and Jackie and Mrs. Robinson’s godly views. As a piece of entertainment, the film itself has its struggles as it tries to bring all of the audience up to speed on the era and the issues that Jackie would face. As a “sports” film, 42 holds its own in the baseball game sections of the film and ultimately the triumph which comes at the end. Personally, my favorite moment of the film is the scene with Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) and “Pee-Wee” Reese (played by Lucas Black) playing for the first time together in a very race-baiting Cincinnatti, Ohio. The bravery of both men and the emotion of this scene is very well-earned and rings true. As good as Mr. Boseman is as Jackie Robinson, Mr. Black is something special as the quiet, forward-thinking, more powerful than he looks “Pee-Wee” Reese.
I won’t go into details on 42, but if you’d like to be entertained and educated at the same time. Definitely check this special and timely film out. And please tip your hat to Harrison Ford for taking a HUGE pay cut and by doing so… making sure that this film got made at all. Harrison Ford is very engaging as the very religious and financially-astute Branch Rickey and plays a character unlike any in his career since probably HANOVER STREET (1978) when he was still just a guy named “Han Solo” in a space film.
Jackie Robinson (who died at just 53 years of age from diabetes and heart disease)… will always mean baseball, but he also meant much more to America and will hopefully mean more to many Republicans around the Country. It goes without saying that what Jackie Robinson accomplished on a baseball diamond was a herculean task and that we and America are the better for it. They don’t make them like Jackie Robinson anymore.
Please Note: If you do go see 42, please be warned that no language was spared in the film and the N-Word is used in all the terrible ways it could in 1947. The baseball scenes involving the Philadelphia Phillies (my favorite team) are particularly cringe-inducing. While the scenes are historically-accurate, they are difficult to watch no matter your persuasion. I would not recommend this film for children under the age of twelve and even then, unless they are fairly sophisticated and understand the context of the events they will see. Otherwise, please check out 42 and come back to Politisite and let us know what you think.