AFI Movie Club Pick of the Day: 42

Posted by Larry Gleeson

In 42, screen icon Chadwick Boseman steps into the shoes of Jackie Robinson in this incredible story of the baseball legend who became the first black player in the Major League. Chadwick Boseman was directing an off-Broadway play in New York City but happened to be visiting Los Angeles when auditions were held for 42. According to writer/director Brian Helgeland, Chadwick Boseman was only the second person to read for the part – and immediately set the bar. Helgeland has since said that no one could have played the part better than Boseman – and that no matter if the story is remade 100 times, no one ever will.

Filmmakers collaborated with Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, on the making of 42. The production wanted to ensure the authenticity of her late husband’s story. According to Chadwick Boseman, Jackie Robinson’s widow challenged him to bring his best to the part and not take the role lightly. He said she told him that, “if we had made this movie when I wanted to make this movie, Sidney Poitier would have played your role. And then Denzel [Washington] was supposed to play it. And now we have you. Who are you?” Boseman responded that he would put his entire self into the role. Chadwick Boseman trained for 42 for almost five months – working with coaches from college and the Major Leagues. According to Boseman, practices would be taped every few weeks so that he could compare his own batting, fielding, and base running with Jackie Robinson’s, in order to perfect Robinson’s techniques. AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Harrison Ford co-stars as Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner Branch Rickey in this triumphant tour de force.

Most of the baseball action in 42 was filmed in Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, TN. Production designers added a 40-foot-high, 1,200-foot-long green screen around the field’s outfield and foul areas. The giant green screen allowed filmmakers to bring the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Ebbets field back to life. The production also filmed at Rickwood Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama – which was built in 1910 and is the oldest professional baseball park in the United States.

Jackie Robinson first became a Major League ballplayer on April 15, 1947. Jackie Robinson won Rookie of the Year in 1947 and Most Valuable Player in 1949. He not only stole a home base in Game One of the 1955 World Series, which the Dodgers won but also was a six-time All-Star and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. In 2004 with the help of Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon and wife Rachel, Major League Baseball honored the date by naming it Jackie Robinson Day. On that day, there’s an annual celebration at every Major League ballpark and every player, coach, manager, and umpire wear Jackie’s #42 to honor the legend for his accomplishments on and off the field. In 1997, Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s jersey #42 from all teams. Those players that were wearing the number at the time were allowed to continue to wear it, but by 2014 the last player wearing the number – Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera – had retired.

Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson started The Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1973, the year after her husband died. Originally operated out of her kitchen, it has since grown into a powerful arm of Jackie’s legacy, administering four-year college scholarships to disadvantaged students of color.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits:

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Why is Jackie Robinson’s legacy important not only to the history of baseball but also to today’s society?

-Why does Branch Rickey choose Jackie to break the color barrier in baseball?

-What characteristics of Jackie helped him get through the blatant racism that occurred on and off the field?

-Branch Rickey asked Jackie Robinson to have the guts not to fight. Why do you think Rickey would ask that of Jackie?

-The moment where teammate Pee Wee Reese ran over to Jackie Robinson and put his arm around him in front of the crowd was commemorated with a statue in Brooklyn, NY. Why was this moment so important?

-In memory of actor Chadwick Boseman, who the world lost way too early – what is a moment in his career that has inspired you, made you smile, or brought a moment of positivity into your life.

-How would you rate 42?

About AFI Movie Club

I hope the AFI Movie Club brings some inspiration and entertainment during this uncertain time. AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies where each day’s film – announced by a special guest – is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points, and material from the AFI Archive to bring the viewing experience to life. As a non-profit, AFI Movie Club is a member-powered organization, dependent upon the support of its movie fans. To support AFI Movie Club please consider becoming a member or donating.

AFI Movie Club is a newly launched free program to raise the nation’s spirits by bringing artists and audiences together – even while we are apart. AFI shines a spotlight on an iconic movie each day, with special guests announcing the Movie of the Day. Audiences can “gather” at to find out how to watch the featured movie of the day with the use of their preexisting streaming service credentials. The daily film selections will be supported by fun facts, family discussion points, and exclusive material from the AFI Archive to enrich the viewing experience.


(Source: AFI News Release)

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