July 23, 2014 07:54 UTC

Entertainment

"42" Tells the Story of Jackie Robinson's Major League Breakthrough

Chadwick Boseman stars as baseball's Jackie Robinson.

Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of '42'.
Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of '42'.

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

 
I’m June Simms.
 
On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in a major league baseball game. A Hollywood movie that tells the story of this historic event is now opening across America. Today we talk about the movie, play music from it and remember the man who broke baseball’s color barrier.
 
The new film is called “42.” That was Jackie Robinson’s number when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Major League baseball officials retired the number in 1997. As a result, no player today can use it. Kelly Jean Kelly tells about how Jackie Robinson earned this rare honor.
 
In the 1940s, many Americans believed that people of different races should not mix. In much of the country, blacks and whites lived in separate areas and went to separate schools. Blacks who attempted to change the system risked being beaten or killed.
 
Blacks were not permitted to play with whites on professional baseball teams or in any other major sport. Blacks played in the Negro League, a professional baseball organization created in the 1920s.
 
Jackie Robinson grew up in Pasadena, California, near Los Angeles. He was one of five children in his family. He established himself as an athlete at an early age. He starred in several sports while attending the University of California at Los Angeles.
 
In 1941, Jackie Robinson joined the United States Army. He became an officer. But he was dismissed from the army because he objected to an order from a higher officer. Robinson had been ordered to move to the back of a bus because he was black. He refused.
 
Jackie Robinson wanted to play professional baseball. So, he joined the Negro Leagues.     
 
Many of the best baseball players in the United States played in the Negro Leagues. The skills and records of black ball players were as good as white players in the major leagues. 
 
Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs. It was one of the most famous teams in the Negro Leagues. But, he was not happy. White players made more money and had better working conditions.
 
Jackie Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey sign player's agreementJackie Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey sign player's agreement
x
Jackie Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey sign player's agreement
Jackie Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey sign player's agreement
In 1945, Jackie Robinson signed an agreement with Branch Rickey to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey was president of the team. He wanted to find a black player who could deal with the insults and racial pressure he would face in the major leagues. 
 
Rickey wanted a black player who would show restraint at all times. He thought Jackie Robinson was good enough as a player and strong enough as a person to succeed. He made Robinson promise that he would never show his anger on the baseball field. Robinson accepted that condition. He spoke later. 
 
"I knew that I was going to be somewhat out front and perhaps, I would have to take a lot of abuse. I knew that this was bigger than any one individual and I would have to do whatever I possibly could to control myself."

Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier when he played in his first Major League game in 1947. The Negro Leagues ended in the late 1950s because more and more blacks were playing in the major leagues, thanks to Jackie Robinson.
 
The great American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., praised Robinson’s efforts, calling him, “a legend and symbol in his own time.”
 
Brian Helgeland wrote and directed the movie “42.” His earlier films include “L.A. Confidential,” “Conspiracy Theory,” and “Man on Fire.” His movies generally combine suspense, mystery and action.
 
“42” is quieter. But Brian Helgeland says he does not see a big difference. “I just thought of it all as filmmaking,” he says.
 
He also says it was Jackie Robinson’s story that got him interested in the project. He told reporters he was struck by Robinson’s bravery. As the filmmaker said, “you can write all the superhero movies there are in the world, and you wouldn’t come close.”
 
He noted that it was very important to get the right actor to play Jackie Robinson. He chose Chadwick Boseman instead of a more famous actor. Brian Helgeland said Boseman took artistic risks when he tried out for the part. “I thought that was brave, and he had to play a brave guy, so that was all I needed to know about him,” said the director.
 
Chadwick Boseman says Jackie Robinson’s wife, Rachel, was a big help to him in playing the part. He met with her many times. The actor said it was not as much what she said to him that made the difference. He said he could sense the presence of the former star player around Rachel Robinson. “His spirit is still present with her. I could feel the edges of him,” he said.
 
Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey. Ford said he was not really interested in baseball growing up. He said this role was a study for him.
 
“That song is Take me Out to the Ballgame.” It is among the songs features on the “42” Soundtrack. Avi Arditti plays a few others for us.
 
There are a few songs about baseball in the new movie about Jackie Robinson. But the soundtrack also contains songs that symbolize the time period in which the baseball player made his breakthrough. “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” is a 1940 hit from Duke Ellington.
 
“42” is also a love story. It shows the passionate and deeply loyal relationship between Jackie Robinson and his wife Rachel. The movie makers included Billie Holiday’s “Lover Man” in the movie.
 
“Straighten Up and Fly Right” certainly could be a song about baseball. But it is actually a black folk tale that singer Nat King Cole’s father, a Christian clergyman, used in some of his services.
 
And, no movie about baseball and civil rights should be without this song, “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball” performed by Count Basie and his Orchestra.



 
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Naoto
04/18/2013 6:51 PM
I thougt I want to watch 42.

In Response

by: Dorcas from: China
04/19/2013 3:30 AM
I want to listen to some news to improve my listening.


by: FAHAD ALBAQAMI from: LOS ANGELES
04/18/2013 6:49 PM
It was interisting story. i really enjoed with it. the story is talking about secsacful person. he made his way to making his life.


by: Francisco from: Chile
04/18/2013 3:01 AM
It was a very good article, I'm glad to read article like this.


by: David liu from: Taiwan
04/18/2013 2:52 AM
Dear VOA : Why some topic such as springtime in D.C and this topic can not download pdf file?


by: Pascual from: Venezuela
04/12/2013 6:48 PM
It was an excellent article, I would like to see more about sports heroes. Thanks for the pleasure.

Learn with The News

  • Obama LGBT

    Audio Obama’s Weak Poll Ratings Worry Democrats

    This is a congressional election year in the United States. Some Democratic Party candidates are concerned about President Obama’s unpopularity could hurt the Democrats’ chances to keep control of the Senate. More

  • Immigration Obama

    Audio Former Agent Blames Politics for US Immigration Crisis

    A former U.S. immigration officer says actions being taken by Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border may be causing people to believe differently. The Obama administration says as many as 90,000 children might try to enter the United States illegally from Mexico this year. More

  • Kepler

    Audio NASA: Close to Discovering Life in Outer Space

    NASA scientists say they are closer than ever to finding life beyond Earth. That search is centered mostly on Mars and the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. But the scientists are looking for life outside the solar system. More

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri talk at the presidential palace in Cairo July 22, 2014.

    Audio Kerry: Hamas Can End Crisis with Ceasefire

    United States Secretary of State John Kerry says the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is growing worse by the day. But, he says Hamas can end the suffering by agreeing to an Egyptian-led ceasefire. More

  • Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, shakes hands with opposition leader Sam Rainsy before a meeting at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sept. 17, 2013.

    Audio Cambodian Rivals to Meet on Political Crisis

    Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, July 22. They hope to settle the year-long political crisis that led to violent protests and arrests. More

Featured Stories

  • Retired clinical therapist Doug Oliver discusses old times with Geneva McElroy at a senior center in Nashville, Tennessee. (M. Osborne/VOA)

    Conversations Finds Lost Memories

    Conversations about the past are proving to help senior citizens remember the present. These conversations are also helping them fight depression and feel better about themselves. | Health Report More

  • Heat Wave-Las Vegas

    Audio How to Survive the Heat

    Floods, storms and other natural events kill thousands of people every year. So does extreme heat. In fact, heat may be nature’s deadliest killer. | Science in the News More

  • minuteman

    Audio Nuclear Missile Site Turns Tourist Site

    The Cold War is long over. What do you do with a missile launch when a war is over? Turn it into a tourist site, of course. More

  • Pharsalia

    Audio Pharsalia Plantation Celebrates 200th Anniversary

    That’s old time American music to celebrate an anniversary -- for a house. Pharsalia Plantation is on a beautiful mountain country road in Virginia. You can understand why Thomas Massie decided to build the house there in 1814. More

  • Audio James Buchanan Wins Election of 1856

    The Democratic Party denies President Franklin Pierce the nomination and defeats two new opposition parties. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs