Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian Helgeland|
|Produced by||Thomas Tull|
|Written by||Brian Helgeland|
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$97.5 million|
42 is a 2013 American biographical sports film about baseball player Jackie Robinson, the first black athlete to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) during the modern era. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, the film stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, alongside Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, André Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater and Ryan Merriman in supporting roles. The title of the film is a reference to Robinson's jersey number, which was retired across all MLB teams in 1997.
42 was theatrically released in the United States on April 12, 2013. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances of Boseman and Ford but with criticism aimed at the film's historical inaccuracies. Nevertheless, the film was a commercial success, grossing $97.5 million on a production budget of $40 million.
In 1945, sportswriter Wendell Smith suggests that Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey consider Jackie Robinson as the black ballplayer Rickey is looking for. Robinson and his team, the Kansas City Monarchs, stop by a gas station. When the attendant refuses Robinson entry to the washroom, Robinson says they will find another station at which to fill up the team bus, and the attendant relents. As Robinson steps out, a scout for the Dodgers sent by Rickey approaches him and invites him to Brooklyn. He is offered a $600 per month contract and a $3,500 signing bonus, which Robinson accepts after being warned by Rickey that he must control his temper if he wants to play. Robinson proposes to his girlfriend, Rachel, by phone and she accepts.
During spring training, Robinson earns a roster spot with the Montreal Royals, the AAA affiliate of the Brooklyn farm system. After a great season there and spring training in Panama, he advances to the Dodgers. Many of the players soon sign a petition, stating they refuse to play with Robinson, but manager Leo Durocher insists Robinson will play with the main team, and they relent. When Durocher is suspended by Happy Chandler, the Commissioner of Baseball, for actions in his personal life, leaving the Dodgers without a manager to start the regular season, Burt Shotton agrees to manage the team.
In a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, manager Ben Chapman taunts Robinson, causing him to go back to the dugout and smash his bat out of frustration. With encouragement from Rickey, Robinson then returns to the field and hits a single, steals second base and advances to third on a throwing error, and scores the winning run. When Chapman's behavior toward Robinson generates bad press for the team, Phillies' general manager Herb Pennock requires him to pose with Robinson for newspapers and magazine photos prior to the next game between the two teams.
Later, Robinson's teammate Pee Wee Reese comes to understand what kind of pressure Robinson is facing, and makes a public show of solidarity, standing with his arm around Robinson's shoulders before a hostile crowd at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, silencing them.
Robinson's home run against Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller, who had earlier hit him in the head, helps clinch the National League pennant for the Dodgers, sending them to the World Series, which they would lose to the New York Yankees.
- Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson
- Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey
- André Holland as Wendell Smith
- Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher
- John C. McGinley as Red Barber
- Toby Huss as Clyde Sukeforth
- Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese
- Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman
- Nicole Beharie as Rachel Isum Robinson
- C. J. Nitkowski as Dutch Leonard
- Brett Cullen as Clay Hopper
- Gino Anthony Pesi as Joe Garagiola Sr.
- Ryan Merriman as Dixie Walker
- T. R. Knight as Harold Parrott
- Hamish Linklater as Ralph Branca
- Brad Beyer as Kirby Higbe
- Jesse Luken as Eddie Stanky
- Max Gail as Burt Shotton
- Peter MacKenzie as Happy Chandler
- Linc Hand as Fritz Ostermueller
- Jeremy Ray Taylor as Boy
- James Pickens Jr. as Mr. Brock
- Dusan Brown as Ed Charles
Former minor league player Jasha Balcom served as a stuntman for Boseman in some of the film's scenes.
Spike Lee planned to write and direct a film based on the life of Jackie Robinson and had it set up at Turner Pictures under his 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks in 1995. The studio wanted to release it in 1997 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Robinson's breaking of the color barrier, and courted Denzel Washington to star, but the project fell apart in 1996 over creative differences. In March 1997, Lee found favor with Columbia Pictures, who signed him to a three-year first-look deal. Columbia President Amy Pascal reflected that it would bring "enormous potential for Spike to reach audiences that are not traditionally associated with Spike Lee movies." The project eventually fell apart, but in 2004 Robert Redford set up a Jackie Robinson biopic as producer with Deep River Productions, as well as his own production company, Wildwood Productions. Redford also intended to co-star as Branch Rickey, and Howard Baldwin joined as producer the following year. In June 2011, it was announced that Legendary Pictures would develop and produce a Jackie Robinson biopic with Brian Helgeland on board to write and direct, under a distribution deal with Warner Bros. Legendary collaborated with Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, to ensure the authenticity of her husband's story. She had previously been involved with Redford's project.
Most of the interior stadium shots were filmed in Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee, while some were shot at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, which also served as the set for games-action scenes at Forbes Field, Roosevelt Stadium, Shibe Park, as well as itself in the film's opening. Utilizing old photographs and stadium blueprints, Ebbets Field, Shibe Park, The Polo Grounds, Crosley Field, Sportsman’s Park, and Forbes Field were recreated for the film using digital imagery.
|White House student workshop about 42 hosted by Michelle Obama with Rachel Robinson, Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Brian Helgeland, and Thomas Tull, April 2, 2013, C-SPAN|
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 192 reviews, with an average rating of 6.88/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "42 is an earnest, inspirational, and respectfully told biography of an influential American sports icon, though it might be a little too safe and old-fashioned for some." On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 62 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare "A+" grade.
Richard Roeper stated, "This is a competent but mostly unexceptional film about a most extraordinary man." Lisa Kennedy, of the Denver Post, lauded the film, saying "This story inspires and entertains with a vital chapter in this nation's history." Conversely, Peter Rainer, of The Christian Science Monitor, criticized the film as "TV-movie-of-the-week dull and Robinson's ordeal is hammered home to the exclusion of virtually everything else in his life."
The film's actors were generally praised, with Owen Gleiberman saying of Ford, "He gives an ingeniously stylized cartoon performance, his eyes atwinkle, his mouth a rubbery grin, his voice all wily Southern music, though with that growl of Fordian anger just beneath it." The Hollywood Reporter commented that Boseman "has the necessary appeal, proves convincing as an athlete and is expressive in spite of the fact that the man he's playing must mostly keep his true feelings bottled up."
Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, was involved in the production of the film and has praised the end result, saying, "It was important to me because I wanted it to be an authentic piece. I wanted to get it right. I didn't want them to make him an angry black man or some stereotype, so it was important for me to be in there. ... I love the movie. I'm pleased with it. It's authentic and it's also very powerful."
42 grossed $95 million in the United States and $2.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $97.5 million, against a production budget of $40 million.
The film earned $27.3 million for its opening weekend, the best-ever debut for a baseball-themed film. It then made $17.7 million and $10.7 million on its second and third weekends, finishing second and third, respectively.
Robinson and Rachel Isum became engaged in 1943, while he was still in the United States Army and before he began his professional baseball career, unlike in the film where he proposes after signing the contract with the Dodgers.
The scene of Robinson breaking his bat in the dugout tunnel is not based in fact. Both Rachel Robinson and Ralph Branca, film consultant and Dodger pitcher in the dugout that day, say it did not happen. Director Helgeland concurs, explaining that his justification for including the scene was that he felt "there was no way Robinson could have withstood all that abuse without cracking at least once, even if it was in private."
Red Barber would not have broadcast Dodger away games from the opposing team's ballpark in Philadelphia and Cincinnati, as shown in the film. Radio broadcasts of away games in this era were recreated back at the studio from a pitch by pitch summary transmitted over telegraph wire from the stadium where the game was being played.
Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller threw left-handed, not right-handed as in the film. His first inning pitch hit Robinson on the left wrist, not his head, and he claimed it was a routine brushback pitch without racist intent. There was no fight on the mound afterwards. The climactic scene in which Robinson hit a home run to clinch the National League pennant for the Dodgers came in the top of the fourth inning of the game, did not clinch the victory (it made the score 1–0, and the Dodgers eventually won 4–2), and did not clinch the pennant; the Dodgers clinched at least a tie for the pennant on that day before clinching the pennant the next day.
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