We finally say “42” last night, the film about Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in the Major Leagues. It’s a terrific, uplifting film that shows how far we have come in this country in making sure minorities have opportunities. But this is in part because the bar was so low, as the film displays the raw emotions that no one seemed embarrassed to express regarding the proper position of African Americans in the scheme of things. The film is well put together and very well acted. Most of the cast was unknown to me, except for Harrison Ford, who played Branch Rickey, Dodgers’ general manager who decided (for reasons that are a bit complicated, as you see) it was time for a black in the league and that Robinson, then playing for Kansas City in the Negro League was his man. Everyone, including me, loves Harrison Ford and it was good to see him playing a character that was not Harrison Ford. I was not surprised that he could play a credible Rickey, but that he could even look like Rickey, although Rickey had a round, Cheshire-like face, and Ford a long, narrow one. (By the way, I looked it up – a gin rickey was not named after Branch but after a 19th century lobbyist named Joe Rickey.)
What is surprising, though, is how the film seemed to have captured the forest, but missed so many trees. By this I mean that the film does a good job of telling the story, and struggle, of Robinson, but has so many wrong and/or anachronistic errors. I first noticed it when the informational sign stated the the bus carrying the Monarchs was on Interstate 24. Of course, we are talking about 1947, and the Interstate system was about ten years in the future. I assume they mean U.S. Highway 24, which does run through northern Missouri, taking you from Kansas City to, say, Peoria. But why did they identify it as an Interstate? Just a dumb error.
So, I looked this up, too. And saw that there are blogs after blogs which point out the (all small) errors in the film, and ImDB has a listing of a dozen or so. They range from right handed batters hitting left handed (or is it the other way around?), to air conditioning vents in houses that could not be air conditioned in 1947, and medical treatments that did not exist then. And there are a lot of these – perfect for Trivial Pursuit, perhaps, but embarrassing for the film makers.
Robinson’s wife, Rae, comes across very well (as does Rickey of course)and Peewee Reese) – I didn’t realize that, at age 92 or so, she is still living, or that she became a nurse educator, teaching at the Yale School of Nursing. Robinson, himself, of course, deteriorated at a young age – with diabetes, vision loss and a heart condition, and he died at the age of 53. How sad.
Finally, I was surprised to see that, in Brooklyn, Rae had a white baby sitter for her young son. Perhaps she did in real life, perhaps not; this is totally unimportant to me. But what I saw later is that the actor who played the attractive young baby sitter was Kelley Jakle (means nothing to me), who is – in real life, as they say, Branch Rickey’s great granddaughter.