My book One Night, Two Teams is under option to a producer who is trying to get Dick Cook, producer of the Jackie Robinson film 42, to make it, so I was privy to a lot of inside scoop coming out of its premiere at the L.A. Sports Museum. I heard the acting was not good, and it was shaky. Then the reviews came in: the San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Marin I.J., and they were not laudatory. Christopher Meloni was a bad Leo Durocher. John McGinley mangled Red Barber’s cadence, Harrison Ford was boring. I figured, another bad sports movie. I’ll watch it On-Demand later. Then I was invited to see it, so I went. The reviewers and critics could not possibly have been more wrong. What clowns! What did they want, Harrison Ford to channel Indiana Jones through Branch Rickey? I have zero complaints, and nobody knows attention to this kind of detail like me.
On this Earth there may not be another person more authoritative to speak to 42 than me. My dad was a contemporary of Robinson’s who competed against him in the Fresno relays high school track meet, and was a Cal track man and football player when Robinson competed against the Bears for UCLA in both sports. I was steeped in Robinson lore from the beginning. My dad introduced me to Robinon’s brother Mack at the L.A. Coliseum when I was seven. One of the first books I ever read was Robinson’s I Never Had It Made.
I played professional baseball. I took classes in the USC film school. I wrote 16 screenplays. I am the author of two Dodgers histories
and another about the 1962 Dodgers-Giants pennant race. I do a spot on Red Barber imitation. Second unit director Allan Graf is a good friend of mine. Nobody knows Jackie Robinson and baseball movies better than me. If it had flaws I would have seen them glaring off the screen. I found none.
First, Ford was Oscar-worthy as Rickey, exactly as the Mahatma was. McGinley did a fabulous Barber voice, and Meloni looked and apperared just like the amoral Durocher.
Chadwick Boseman was a solid Jackie, although the voice was much different. Listen to Tony Gwynn speak. That’s how Jackie sounded, a kind of California-neutral suburban voice that did not “sound black” at all. Robinson was a Republican and good friend of Richard Nixon’s, his Congressman in Pasadena where he grew up. He once spoke to HUAC, explaining that the Communists would never get control of the Civil Rights Movement because the black community was far too Christian, as he was, to follow its atheist prescriptions. The real Robinson was even more handsome, and built more sturdily than Boseman. Jack was a bull, a former football player with a barrel chest. Also, while Nicole Behari was a cute Rachel Robinson, in a rarity, the real Rachel was even better looking than the actress. But none of this is a complaint.
The baseball was awesome. The racism was obvious but not meant to hit us over the head in shame. It did a good job of demonstrating that Christian faith was a huge factor in the success of the Great Experiment. Lucas Black was a great Pee Wee Reese, a picture of the changing South. The young boy who initially call Jack by the N-word, then has sympathy and shame replace racism when he sees how bad he is treated, is a symbol of America. The young Ed Charles was a revelation. The scenery, Ebbetts Field, Brooklyn in the 1940s, the uniforms, were spot on, no complaints. The faces of the actors playing Dodgers teammates, slowly gravitating to Robinson’s side, was a perfect teling of the story without exposition by dialogue. It held the story to a short time frame (1945-47) without overwhelmning us with 20 years of Robinson. The Ralph Branca “come shower with me Jackie” scene was comic relief.
What more could you ask for? I loved it and it should make a ton of dough.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism