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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Film Review: 42

There is already talk of a sequel - “43: This Time Its Personal”

Despite the film’s sleek feel, the basic life story with its tribulations and triumphs remain intact. It’s inspiring, especially as depicted by Boseman who has the swagger of a young Denzel Washington. Serious, stoic, pent up. If anything he suppresses his anger better than Washington, letting it ride under the surface, so when it erupts, it’s dramatic, forceful. The physicality of his performance—mimicking Robinson’s awkward batting stance and freaky, base-stealing agility—is uncanny.

The romance between Jackie and his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie; Shame and American Violet) depicts a strong foundation. Beharie flaunts the charm and determination that is trademark of the real Mrs. Robinson. Lucas Black as Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese, is the quintessential character actor; the one you call when you need a Southern man with a solid persona. Tudyk as Chapman is suitable vicious and unremorseful as the “N” word rolls off his tongue with venom that would shame the KKK. Harrison, a lead actor, is not an obvious choice to play an historical character. His performance seems a bit studied, clunky and theatrical, but eventually he wins you over.

Hegeland’s script spends the right amount of time exploring Robinson’s inner self. He wasn’t just a skilled athlete; he was a keen strategist, a smart man’s player. He could get under the skin of any pitcher by stealing bases with the cunning of a fox. He was ferocious, yet a gentleman. The flaw in the script is that too often the characters talk in platitudes, and not like real people. Particularly Rickey; probably he was as smart businessman with certain ideals and solid morals. It’s unlikely that every sentence he uttered was prosaic, poignant and prophetic: “Dollars aren’t black and white, they’re green.”

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 09, 2013 at 02:42 PM | 181 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: 42, baseball in film, ben chapman, branch rickey, dodgers, hollywood, jackie robinson, movies, pee wee reese

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   101. DanG Posted: April 10, 2013 at 11:45 PM (#4410419)
That's what happens when you try to find a stranger in the alps, Gonfalon
Cease with your ruthless pricking...
   102. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: April 11, 2013 at 12:47 AM (#4410452)
Name a good football movie.

I remember enjoying North Dallas Forty and the 70's Longest Yard, though I suspect neither aged particularly well.
More recently, I thought that documentary about the Harvard-Yale tie, in the late 60's, was pretty well-done.
   103. Walt Davis Posted: April 11, 2013 at 12:58 AM (#4410460)
My point is ... there are (roughly) two types of "fact-based" (or "bio-based") subjects out there. There are "legends," be they positive legends like Robinson or negative ones like Bin Laden, and then there are non-legendary ones whether they be non-legends because they were just never very famous or because they were so long ago that very few alive today know/care about the legend (Braveheart).

In the latter case, obviously you can kinda do what you want and few will know or care. Most importantly, you can even just tell that person's story and make a good movie because people don't know the story. Or you can go completely fictional and few will know the difference and even fewer will care. This gives us something like Raging Bull in the reasonably realistic direction and (shame on people for not raising this one as a supposed counter-point yet) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on the "give us a break" extreme.

It's only the legend that proves a challenge. If you tell the standard story -- ho hum. If you over-fictionalize, people rant and rave. You've got to find a way to bring nuance to the legend ... which is not easy to do with legends ... without making the story absurd. Bonnie and Clyde were legends and something of a mix of positive (Robin Hood) and mostly negative. There's no movie there if they're just a colorless bunch of bank-robbing thugs who we all know are gonna get it in the end.

As another analogy ... I'm not sure you can do an interesting movie about D-Day anymore, we know how it turns out. But you can still make an interesting movie like Saving Private Ryan because (unless the script telegraphs it) we don't know how it's going to turn out ... and that allows you to make your D-Day movie while you're at it.

Maybe Robinson has faded far enough into history that his story (the bit of it you can tell in 2 hours) is interesting on its own for lots of people. Or maybe they are going to portray as a much more conflicted character than the Robinson Legend admits ... something they could probably do while sticking to the facts. If the guy is already a hero in the minds of the audience, you can't make an outstanding hero movie.

Very little of what I said has anything to do with whether the movie sticks to the real "facts", the legendary "facts" or makes a lot of #### up. The question is whether the movie creates dramatic tension ... something obviously harder when we all know the ending before walking into the theater.

   104. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 11, 2013 at 05:38 AM (#4410488)
The one thing constant about Jackie Robinson after 1948 is that he never pulled any punches in any direction.


Unfortunately this is an apt description of most of the ######## I know.

I never did see why Raging Bull was ever considered more than a good movie. LaMotta is never more than a brute and therefore never truly interesting, and DeNiro's weight gain is impressive, but it's more stunt work that brilliant acting.

North Dallas Forty was extremely good. I'd take it over Bull, but it's a horse race.
   105. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 11, 2013 at 05:50 AM (#4410490)
Phil Elliott: Jo Bob is here to remind us that the biggest and the baddest get to make all the rules.
Charlotte: Well I don't agree with that.
Phil Elliott: Agreeing doesn't play into it.
Conrad Hunter: People who confuse brains and luck can get in a whole lot of trouble. Seeing through the game is not the same as winning the game.
Maxwell: You know Hartman, goodie-two-shoes is fidgeting around like a one-legged cat trying to bury #### on a frozen pond, until old Seth fixes him a couple of pink poontang specials. You know, that crazy drink that I fix for stewardesses? Two shots out of that and Hartman is shot to ####, freaked out. I mean, I never saw a guy having so much fun and crying at the same time.
Conrad Hunter: There's one thing I learned early on in life. The most important thing a man can have.
Phil Elliott: What's that, money?
Conrad Hunter: Luck. Luck tells me something about a man. If my people are lucky, they tap into a big field. If not, they can have every geology degree in the world and drill one dry duster after another. Look at me. I'm the luckiest man in the world. Sure as hell ain't brains, is it?


   106. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 11, 2013 at 06:45 AM (#4410496)
I never did see why Raging Bull was ever considered more than a good movie. LaMotta is never more than a brute and therefore never truly interesting...

LaMotta is "interesting" in Raging Bull within the context of that movie's relatively realistic depiction of the 1940's fight scene and the characters who created it. But to tie it into Walt's point, it would have been much harder to make such a movie about Joe Louis or (probably) Rocky Marciano, for somewhat similar reasons. With Louis you'd run into a variant of the Robinson problem, and with Marciano you'd be dealing with a smaller but if anything even more intense cult of ethnic-based hero worshippers.**

Another example of a good biopic was Cinderella Man, which dealt with an even more obscure fighter (Jim Braddock) in a more conventional but IMO equally successful manner. The only major flaw in that film was its overly negative (and fact-challenged) depiction of Max Baer, which was done for dramatic purposes but still seemed overly gratuitous to me.

But to further illustrate Walt's point about the limitations imposed on even the most fictionalized biopics, I can't think of a single movie in that category which is the equal of Mickey Rourke's The Wrestler, which may be the best "sports" movie ever made. If you tried to make a movie that brutally honest (and without lampoonish exaggeration) that had a real person as its central character, it'd be much harder to accomplish. Raging Bull is about as good as it gets within its framework of limitations, but I think that at the end, The Wrestler hits home even more. When your bias is a strong respect for actual history and relatively little tolerance for dramatic "enhancement", biopics will have a very high set of hurdles, and the greater the claims made for a film's importance, the higher those hurdles will (and should) be.

**Of course the Gold Standard for an impossible-to-make honest biopic (sports division) would be one about Muhammad Ali. Anyone associated with a movie like that might have to go into a witness protection program.

EDIT: As is always the case with boxing or wrestling movies, these comments could probably stand fact checking from YR.
   107. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 11, 2013 at 07:12 AM (#4410500)
Got to tell you, I'm deeply suspicious of any film directed by Ron Howard. Is Cinderella Man really worth a look?

I'm open to being wrong about Raging Bull, by the way, and while Scorcese's a bit overrated he's reached genius from time to time. If you know of a good essay on the film I'd be glad to read it. Coincidentally there's a show on Picasso, Braque, cubism, and film, and Scorcese's talking about the problem he has moving to digital film. Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies. Pretty interesting.

Agree wrt The Wrestler. I found it painful to watch, it was that good. Even the scene where he goes to work in the deli section, a throwaway or cliche in most films, is powerful. I'm not a stickler for historical accuracy in the service of good film, fwiw. While I don't think everything is relative, or close to it, I think the idea that there is a historical truth we can aspire to rather than multiple points of view, many of which have validity, is wrongheaded. There are facts, to be sure, but then there's everything.

The biopic Ali wasn't bad, all things considered. A waste of Micheal Mann's considerable talents, but watchable. Hurricane could have been interesting, but didn't have enough boxing for my taste (granted that wasn't what the film wanted to be about, but Carter was a violent man accused of a violent crime--what better way to get to the heart of the matter than in the ring?), and Carter being hounded by a racist buffoon (the fault of a director who had no idea how to use Dan Hedaya's considerable talents without letting Hedaya collapse into the caricature he's always on the verge of becoming); that and it's utter solemnity did it in.

One thing that always struck me about Ali was how quickly he dropped so much of the braggadocio after he became the Champ. You wouldn't think it, given how he's portrayed.
   108. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 11, 2013 at 09:29 AM (#4410566)
Got to tell you, I'm deeply suspicious of any film directed by Ron Howard. Is Cinderella Man really worth a look?

Not being a details man from the auteur school of fandom, I had no idea who directed Cinderella Man, and I can only say that I found it a very good movie in nearly every respect, a solid 8 on my subjective 10 scale. For comparison, I'd put Raging Bull at a 9 and The Wrestler at a 10. It does get a bit on the feelgood / sentimental side, and the fight scenes are typically enhanced by nonstop punching with little sparring or retreating, but from all accounts Braddock was the real deal as a man, and if you can put up with watching Paul Newman or Tom Cruise shoot pool, then watching Russell Crowe box shouldn't be too unnerving an experience.

I'm open to being wrong about Raging Bull, by the way, and while Scorcese's a bit overrated he's reached genius from time to time. If you know of a good essay on the film I'd be glad to read it. Coincidentally there's a show on Picasso, Braque, cubism, and film, and Scorcese's talking about the problem he has moving to digital film. Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies. Pretty interesting.

I always assume that you and Morty and many others here know far more about the art of moviemaking than I do, and I try to limit myself to giving my subjective reactions to what I see as a subjective experience in the audience. Being subjectively attracted to contemporary urban-based dramas, plus being a big fan of Pacino and DeNiro, I naturally view Scorcese as worthy of the praise that's usually bestowed upon him. OTOH in checking his filmography list, I find I've only seen 9 of his films. (I'm much more into pre-1960 movies.)

Agree wrt The Wrestler. I found it painful to watch, it was that good. Even the scene where he goes to work in the deli section, a throwaway or cliche in most films, is powerful. I'm not a stickler for historical accuracy in the service of good film, fwiw. While I don't think everything is relative, or close to it, I think the idea that there is a historical truth we can aspire to rather than multiple points of view, many of which have validity, is wrongheaded. There are facts, to be sure, but then there's everything.

I liked pretty much everything about The Wrestler, but IMO the most poignant scene was the one where Rourke and a few other wrestlers were trying to peddle autographed pictures in a virtually empty hall at one of those bottom of the barrel "collectibles" shows. In a way it was just a throwaway scene, but it was still, like you say, almost painful to watch.

The biopic Ali wasn't bad, all things considered. A waste of Micheal Mann's considerable talents, but watchable. Hurricane could have been interesting, but didn't have enough boxing for my taste (granted that wasn't what the film wanted to be about, but Carter was a violent man accused of a violent crime--what better way to get to the heart of the matter than in the ring?), and Carter being hounded by a racist buffoon (the fault of a director who had no idea how to use Dan Hedaya's considerable talents without letting Hedaya collapse into the caricature he's always on the verge of becoming); that and it's utter solemnity did it in.

Haven't seen either, though I should probably rent the Carter movie just to see for myself. I can't even imagine a good movie ever being made about Muhammad Ali, given all the hype and BS that would have to be sorted through and dealt with. Maybe if the late Mark Kram had been able to have the last word on the screenplay, it might have had at least a 10% chance of success, but the operative word there is "late".

One thing that always struck me about Ali was how quickly he dropped so much of the braggadocio after he became the Champ. You wouldn't think it, given how he's portrayed.

Not sure what you mean by that, unless you're dating his reign as "the Champ" in metaphorical rather than literal terms. I certainly didn't notice any pullback in the braggadocio in the years between Liston I and Frazier III. Less poetry, maybe.
   109. Morty Causa Posted: April 11, 2013 at 09:31 AM (#4410567)
Does rodeo count as sport or athletic endeavor? If so, Peckinpah's Junior Bonner with Steve McQueen is quite good, as is Nick Ray's The Lusty Men with Mitchum and Susan Hayward.
   110. Scott Lange Posted: April 11, 2013 at 09:33 AM (#4410572)
For me, the Wrestler suffered by comparison to Beyond the Mat, a documentary that covered a lot of the same ground. Much like I couldn't really give He Got Game a fair chance, having already seen Hoop Dreams. Unless the fictional version really adds something amazing, its always going to be hard to match the impact of seeing the real people involved.
   111. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: April 11, 2013 at 09:44 AM (#4410585)
the fault of a director who had no idea how to use Dan Hedaya's considerable talents without letting Hedaya collapse into the caricature he's always on the verge of becoming

I like this.
   112. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 12, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4412254)
Just got back from seeing "42". A few first impressions:

---See it. It won't kill you. I give it at best a 7/10, but I'm still glad that I went.

---Harrison Ford was perfectly cast as Rickey, both in mannerisms and in an almost eerie physical resemblance. To be honest, his performance was a pleasant surprise.

---Chadwick Boseman was about as good a choice for Robinson as you could probably find. He had Robinson's physical characteristics down pretty well, especially his stance and swing. It was a lot less painful in that respect than watching Paul Newman impersonating a pool player. Beyond that he was okay, but due to the script his character wasn't really fleshed out very much.

---The rest of the cast (the ones who played Rachel Robinson, Wendell Smith, Ralph Branca, Pee Wee Reese, Eddie Stanky, Ben Chapman, Durocher, Red Barber, etc.) were nothing special, though in their defense they were little more than character actors playing rigidly defined roles.

---It was an especially good movie for children and young adults, never mind the liberal use of the n-word. The broad historic narrative was accurate, though I'll get to the embellishments below.

---It walked the line between being a moral tale and a sentimental one, but for a commercial movie it didn't do too badly. I hate to use one of the worst cliches imaginable, but it's a movie that could well be enjoyed by people who know absolutely nothing about baseball. In terms of overall realism, it was closer to Eight Men Out than to Pride of the Yankees, but there was quite a bit of the latter movie's style in there, too.

---The scene where Durocher confronted the would-be anti-Robinson petitioners among the Dodgers was very well played and true to its real world spirit, even if much of the actual dialogue was necessarily invented in the particulars.

---The material details were fairly accurate as far as I could tell, at least the styling of the 1947 uniforms.

All that said, there's also a fair amount of apocrypha, embellishment and plain old BS. I could spend the next two hours doing tracers, but here are a few egregious examples:

---In the Ben Chapman scene, Chapman is depicted spending the entire time heckling Robinson while standing about six feet outside the dugout. Never once did the umpires tell him to sit down, and never once do you see him hounding Jackie from the bench.

---As a followup, in one of Robinson's final at bats of the day, Eddie Stanky goes over and starts jawboning with Chapman in front of the Phillies' dugout, while (a) once again, the umpires just stand there; and (b) not a single other player joins in.

---And after Robinson pops out in that final at bat, he then races down the runway and starts smashing his bat against the concrete before breaking down in private tears, enraged by Chapman's abuse and his own inability to retaliate. All this while the teams are changing sides between innings. And then lo and behold, here comes Branch Rickey out of nowhere for yet another Deep Conversation, and after a between innings delay that would have put a 21st century World Series game to shame, Robinson finally goes back to his position.

---In the Pee Wee Reese hugging scene, an incident which in itself may well be apocryphal, you see the game being delayed for a good two minutes while Reese goes over to put his arm around Jackie and engage him in conversation. As if the umpires would have just let them talk it out for all that time for no apparent reason.

---Leo Durocher's suspension was depicted as being solely caused by the Catholic Church's pressure on Happy Chandler due to Leo's adultery. That was not the reason for Durocher's suspension, which was a far more complicated affair than that.

---There were other scenes like this, but perhaps the biggest howler of them all was a brief glimpse of The New York Times front page after the Dodgers clinched the pennant. Instead of the usual one column headlines of the day that the Times was noted for, and instead of the banner columns that might have announced a major military victory, instead we get a weird looking front page with something like "How About Those Bums?" spread all over the middle columns of the top half of the paper (with no accompanying picture), in a style that The New York Times has never used in its entire history. The irony is if they'd just searched the archives of the Daily News, they almost certainly cold have found a real headline that would have made for a far better screen shot.

Since I was only taking mental notes and don't want to run on even more than I already have, I'm sure I've left out a lot of major points, but overall I'd still recommend it in spite of itself.

   113. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: April 12, 2013 at 06:48 PM (#4412299)
So far 42 has a 63 over at MetaCritic.
   114. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 12, 2013 at 06:48 PM (#4412300)
I forgot to mention the worst scene of all: After Robinson's pennant-winning home run, the movie has him standing at the plate, watching the ball sail over the wall, and then has him staring at the wall for another few seconds before starting his home run trot, which is (naturally) shot in the obligatory SlowMo with sappy music blaring full force. Why these ####### Hollywood movies seem compelled to convert honest historical drama into 21st century currency is beyond me, but God knows they don't seem to be able to help themselves.

I still think the movie's worth going to, but I did want people to be forewarned, because scenes like that are not for the squeamish.
   115. Steve Treder Posted: April 12, 2013 at 06:56 PM (#4412306)
Why these ####### Hollywood movies seem compelled to convert honest historical drama into 21st century currency is beyond me

I'll go with: they are more concerned with 21st century currency than they are with honest historical drama. Just a guess.
   116. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 12, 2013 at 07:18 PM (#4412318)
Yeah, no ####. My last comment was purely rhetorical.
   117. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 12, 2013 at 07:29 PM (#4412339)
Got to tell you, I'm deeply suspicious of any film directed by Ron Howard. Is Cinderella Man really worth a look?


I liked most of it. Heck, I loved most of it. They got many, many things very right about the New York boxing scene of the 1930s. And Jimmy Braddock was an inspired choice for biography, a very promising lightheavyweight of the late-20s whose body started to fail him and whose circumstances never allowed him to properly recover before taking more fights against better contenders. You can watch this fight against Tommy Loughran (one of the best technical boxers of the era, just a beautiful scientific fighter) on YouTube, which shows me, as a historian, how good Braddock could have been. The hand injuries Braddock suffered in this fight are generally credited as being the ones that dogged him the rest of his career and really ended his rise through the prospect rankings. Also, I think Russell Crowe was an inspired choice and did an excellent job emulating Braddock's mannerisms in the ring, which you're welcome to confirm yourself in the footage.

Now of course the fly - the huge, Primo Carnera-sized fly - in the ointment is Ron Howard's absolutely ahistorical depiction of Max Baer as some sort of glowering Clubber Lang-esque bad guy figure, which was so dissimilar from truth as to immediately vex every single boxing historian who saw it. This wasn't a case of shading a complex character to create drama, this was a full fabrication of character, and it was shameful. Max Baer was a screwball, a goof-off, a party boy who liked to dance and sing and be everyone's pal and who would have been much happier doing anything other than beat people to a pulp in the ring if there was only another way for him to make that sort of money. Howard's depiction of him is one of the most laughably false biographical fictions in sports cinema.
   118. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 12, 2013 at 08:31 PM (#4412406)
If anyone ever wants to see the real Max Baer as a lead in a great movie, he should check out The Prizefighter and the Lady, a 1933 film co-starring Myrna Loy and Otto Kruger, and with supporting roles by the reigning champ Primo Carnera and ex-champ Jack Dempsey.
   119. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 12, 2013 at 08:47 PM (#4412429)
If you've seen Baer's depiction in "Cinderella Man", watch this and tell me if that's supposed to be the same guy.

Regarding Baer's star turn with Myrna Loy, this is all you need to see. Unrepentant killer indeed.
   120. Dale H. Posted: April 12, 2013 at 11:40 PM (#4412747)
And after Robinson pops out in that final at bat, he then races down the runway and starts smashing his bat against the concrete before breaking down in private tears, enraged by Chapman's abuse and his own inability to retaliate. All this while the teams are changing sides between innings.
My take was that the vast majority of the scene was happening while the Dodgers were still at bat (did we know that Jackie's out was the third?), and only when the organ music came up was when the inning break occured. This was when Jackie told Rickey that "they are taking the field".
After Robinson's pennant-winning home run, the movie has him standing at the plate, watching the ball sail over the wall, and then has him staring at the wall for another few seconds before starting his home run trot
I was puzzled on how they had won the pennant with that HR, yet the Pirates team stood defiantly on the field still. I know customs have changed, but I couldn't see players hanging around during a walk-off HR just in case he doesn't finish circling the bases.
   121. greenback calls it soccer Posted: April 12, 2013 at 11:47 PM (#4412752)
I was puzzled on how they had won the pennant with that HR, yet the Pirates team stood defiantly on the field still. I know customs have changed, but I couldn't see players hanging around during a walk-off HR just in case he doesn't finish circling the bases.

Wouldn't fans have run onto the field?
   122. SoSH U at work Posted: April 12, 2013 at 11:47 PM (#4412753)
My take was that the vast majority of the scene was happening while the Dodgers were still at bat (did we know that Jackie's out was the third?), and only when the organ music came up was when the inning break occured. This was when Jackie told Rickey that "they are taking the field".


That's what I figured. Even still, Jackie and Rickey in the tunnel was the only real cringe-worthy scene in the movie for me.

I was puzzled on how they had won the pennant with that HR, yet the Pirates team stood defiantly on the field still. I know customs have changed, but I couldn't see players hanging around during a walk-off HR just in case he doesn't finish circling the bases.


It was in Pittsburgh. I was wondering why there were so many Dodger fans there.

I liked it. More important, my 10-year-old son really liked it.
   123. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 12, 2013 at 11:47 PM (#4412754)
Great post, YR. I can't give the fight my full attention right now but I bookmarked the link.


Jolly--your review makes 42 seem abundantly missable until it gets to cable. Sounds like the standard biopic.

As for an Ali movie, I'd give serious thought to focusing on his time in prison, assuming it was interesting. I know a fair bit about his career, but I've heard literally nothing about what his time inside was actually like. His mid to late teens are rarely shown or discussed, though you'd be making a very different movie with a young actor than if you made the typical, star-driven film. A good way to get around the problem of showing people what they already know is to dive deeply into a half dozen events in an historical figures life. If you try to cover too much ground you'll just show us the highlight reel.
   124. Morty Causa Posted: April 13, 2013 at 12:02 AM (#4412773)
   125. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 13, 2013 at 07:46 AM (#4412888)
And after Robinson pops out in that final at bat, he then races down the runway and starts smashing his bat against the concrete before breaking down in private tears, enraged by Chapman's abuse and his own inability to retaliate. All this while the teams are changing sides between innings.

My take was that the vast majority of the scene was happening while the Dodgers were still at bat (did we know that Jackie's out was the third?), and only when the organ music came up was when the inning break occured. This was when Jackie told Rickey that "they are taking the field".


In fact, during that first Dodgers-Phillies game where Chapman went nuts, Robinson went 2 for 4 and scored the game's only run. The incidents went by so quickly in the movie that it's possible I was conflating that game with a rematch in Philadelphia, but then in the first game in Philly (the one with the non-hand handshake between Robby and Chapman) he also got 2 hits.

I'm having a very hard time believing that such a scene ever took place at all during any game---I mean how in the Hell did Branch Rickey just happen to be standing in the runway to the dugout within seconds after Robinson began smashing his bats?

After Robinson's pennant-winning home run, the movie has him standing at the plate, watching the ball sail over the wall, and then has him staring at the wall for another few seconds before starting his home run trot

I was puzzled on how they had won the pennant with that HR, yet the Pirates team stood defiantly on the field still. I know customs have changed, but I couldn't see players hanging around during a walk-off HR just in case he doesn't finish circling the bases.


The game was in Pittsburgh, the home run led off the top of the 4th, and the Dodgers went onto win by 4 to 1. That was the only game in September that the Dodgers beat the Pirates, as the Pirates were a western team back then and had paid their last visit to Brooklyn in August.

-------------------------------------

It was in Pittsburgh. I was wondering why there were so many Dodger fans there.

In 1947 Robinson's presence drew enormous numbers of black fans on the road**, nearly all of them instant Dodger fans. That part of the movie was totally legit.

**As did Doby and Paige when they were signed by Bill Veeck. In both Wrigley and Comiskey, in some cases nearly half the fans were black.

--------------------------------------

I liked it. More important, my 10-year-old son really liked it.


Not surprising, and there's plenty of time to point out the historical inaccuracies later, if he ever makes the transition from a casual fan to something more intense. For children it's a good introduction to one of the bigger life stories of the postwar era.

--------------------------------------

Jolly--your review makes 42 seem abundantly missable until it gets to cable. Sounds like the standard biopic.


I personally wanted to see it before I started reading the reviews**, and I'm still glad that I did, but it certainly doesn't add anything to what most people here would probably already know about Jackie Robinson's debut year.

**The first of which seem all to have been written by Billy Crystal or Doris Kearns Goodwin, if you know what I mean.
   126. SoSH U at work Posted: April 13, 2013 at 08:18 AM (#4412897)

In 1947 Robinson's presence drew enormous numbers of black fans on the road**, nearly all of them instant Dodger fans. That part of the movie was totally legit.


I wasn't curious about the black fans cheering his homer, but the many white ones shown celebrating his mid-game dinger.

   127. Blastin Posted: April 13, 2013 at 08:30 AM (#4412904)
I liked it. It's syrupy and has some cheese, but the acting was very good, and, surprisingly, the baseball (aside from, uh, winning a road game with a home run?) was well-shot and believable, which never occurs.

But yeah, broad strokes version of stuff serious baseball fans already know. Probably useful for preteens and young teens.
   128. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:05 AM (#4412932)
In 1947 Robinson's presence drew enormous numbers of black fans on the road**, nearly all of them instant Dodger fans. That part of the movie was totally legit.

I wasn't curious about the black fans cheering his homer, but the many white ones shown celebrating his mid-game dinger.


Sorry for the misunderstanding of your point, but it's also true that the white opposition to Robinson, at least outside the South, was far from unanimous. It's also worth remembering that in player interviews going back to the 30's, interviews that included most of the game's biggest stars, there was strong support for dropping the color barrier.

   129. SoSH U at work Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:11 AM (#4412936)
Sorry for the misunderstanding of your point, but it's also true that the white opposition to Robinson, at least outside the South, was far from unanimous. It's also worth remembering that in player interviews going back to the 30's, interviews that included most of the game's biggest stars, there was strong support for dropping the color barrier.


I understand all that. I still can't imagine white fans of the Pirates were applauding a late-season, mid-game home run by an opposing player. It was almost as if they knew this was a special, slow-motion kind of long ball.
   130. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 13, 2013 at 10:42 AM (#4412949)
I understand all that. I still can't imagine white fans of the Pirates were applauding a late-season, mid-game home run by an opposing player. It was almost as if they knew this was a special, slow-motion kind of homer.

Of course that whole bit about the 4th inning pennant winning home run in a game that ended 4 to 2 was Hollywoodized from start to finish. That much is clear. The movie also implies that Robinson had been beaned by that Pirates' pitcher (Fritz Ostermueller) in their first meeting in May, whereas in fact the pitch had sent him sprawling but only hit Robinson in the arm, and he wound up getting two hits later in the same game.

That said, I can't remember whether or not the movie depicted the entire (white) crowd cheering, or just a relatively small segment. The latter depiction would have been entirely plausible, but obviously not the former.

Fun footnote: In between Robinson's first and last encounters with Ostermueller that year, the Dodgers brought up their first black pitcher, Dan Bankhead. Bankhead made his debut against the Pirates in August and got hammered by 16 to 3, but before he got knocked out he became only the 21st player in MLB history to hit a home run on his first at bat in the Majors.

And the pitcher who gave up Bankhead's home run? Fritz Ostermueller.
   131. Rennie's Tenet Posted: April 14, 2013 at 02:13 PM (#4413789)
Speaking as someone who likes fewer new movies as I age, and who has always been a baseball movie snob, I thought this was a good one.

Is Greenberg Gardens missing from the Forbes Fields scenes? 1947 was Greenberg's only year there. Is the fencing in left just tough to see, or is it missing from the scene?
   132. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:31 PM (#4414725)
I'd like to see a thread of what people think of the movie, since I'd imagine many who post here will see it.

***
First, I don't have an issue that it's not 100% independently verifiably accurate - to the best of my knowledge, it gets the story right. Did Chapman stand on the field berating Robinson in that first game in Philly, or did he stay in the dugout? I don't think it matters; what matters is that the basics are true. From Chapman's Wiki page:
(D)uring an early-season series in Brooklyn, the level of verbal abuse directed by Chapman and his players at Robinson reached such proportions that it made headlines in the New York and national press.


Second, while I knew the story of Robinson, I've always had an issue (as I've stated on this site) with Robinson's place in history (please, hear me out). Integrating baseball was big, and what he went through personally took more strength than I can even imagine, but it didn't seem as paradigm-shifting to me as it's been treated. After all, college and pro football had long been integrated, Jesse Owens had been a star a decade earlier, and boxing had Joe Louis at the same time Owens was running to stardom.

Then I saw 42 and it struck me - it wasn't that Robinson had been the first, but that he'd been the first in the most racist of the major sports. It came to me in the airport scene, where Rachel uses the "Whites Only" bathroom, that the rest of the nation was moving on (she didn't know what to make of the sign at first, then thought it so ridiculous she used the bathroom anyway) while the South and MLB were still clinging onto the threads of the past.

The importance of Robinson is that by breaking MLB's color line, it showed that any racial barrier, no matter how firmly entrenched, could be overcome. In that way, Robinson allowed Thurgood Marshall and Barak Obama in a way that the others before him never could.
   133. Ron J2 Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:21 PM (#4414800)
I liked it well enough. I'll sign on to Andy's comments and note that as an obsessive baseball fan I found it annoying that they portrayed him as being the leader of the 1947 team. (Branca's bit about how he was leading the team)

And the bit about no caught stealing. ... It's true that there are no official caught stealings. The NL didn't track that officially until 1951. But he was caught 11 times according to the Retrosheet data.

Didn't ruin the movie or anything close to it. It's just needless. The story's not improved in the slightest by taking liberties with the facts.

Of note: 28 sacs by a guy with a .383 OBP. I guess I'm sort of OK with it in that he was obviously good at it and obviously a threat to reach (thanks again to Retrosheet we know he reached on error 17 time. Obviously not all on bunts, but still an indication of what was happening)
   134. Rennie's Tenet Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:57 PM (#4414841)
After all, college and pro football had long been integrated,


Am I missing something? The Dodgers signed Robinson before the NFL signed Kenny Washington.

he'd been the first in the most racist of the major sports.


All the teams in MLB (Red Sox last) were integrated before all of the NFL teams (Redskins last).

Edit: I think that Robinson became very important historically because our great immigrant wave had firmly connected baseball with being American.

   135. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 04:23 PM (#4414875)

Am I missing something? The Dodgers signed Robinson before the NFL signed Kenny Washington.


Washington played in a game before Robinson. But the reason Robinson is a big deal is that pro football was small potatoes back then. Baseball was king, pro football was struggling to make it.
   136. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 15, 2013 at 06:01 PM (#4414997)
Second, while I knew the story of Robinson, I've always had an issue (as I've stated on this site) with Robinson's place in history (please, hear me out). Integrating baseball was big, and what he went through personally took more strength than I can even imagine, but it didn't seem as paradigm-shifting to me as it's been treated. After all, college and pro football had long been integrated, Jesse Owens had been a star a decade earlier, and boxing had Joe Louis at the same time Owens was running to stardom.

Then I saw 42 and it struck me - it wasn't that Robinson had been the first, but that he'd been the first in the most racist of the major sports.


In truth after 1933 they were pretty much all the same. Pro basketball wasn't integrated until 1950. Pro football had a small number of black players (and a black coach, Fritz Pollard) when it began play in 1920, but starting with the 1933 season the same unofficial color bar that baseball had took hold in the NFL, courtesy in large part of (surprise, surprise) George Preston Marshall, who was the ban's loudest and foremost proponent.

College football always did have a scattering of black players in many northern, midwestern and western schools, but there was an unwritten rule that during intersectional matchups with southern colleges, those black players would stay at home or sit on the bench. This was sometimes waived in games in the North, but not always, and the three major southern bowl games weren't integrated until 1948 (the Cotton Bowl), 1956 (the Sugar Bowl) and 1957 (the Orange Bowl). OTOH Fritz Pollard of Brown had played in the first "modern" Rose Bowl game way back in 1916.

The importance of Robinson is that by breaking MLB's color line, it showed that any racial barrier, no matter how firmly entrenched, could be overcome. In that way, Robinson allowed Thurgood Marshall and Barack Obama in a way that the others before him never could.

I'd say it goes beyond that. I'd say that just about every modern domestic rights movement was given an enormous kickstart with baseball's integration.** This isn't to say that these movements wouldn't have eventually happened anyway, given the historical forces that were taking hold around the world, but it would have taken them a lot longer without the African American example, and there would have been less certainty (at the time, at least) about its eventual outcome. To white America, Robinson was literally the first public figure African American who had demonstrated in a totally mainstream and important part of American life that he could compete with whites on their own terms and beat them without compromising his beliefs in the slightest.*** All the others before him (Robeson, Louis, Owens, DuBois, etc.) had all been marginalized one way or another, either by suppression or condescension.**** But not Robinson. He completely broke the mold, and set an example of assertive African American manhood that countless others would use as a model whether or not they often didn't even realize it themselves.

**This has been repeatedly borne out by statements from major black leaders, including Dr. King himself.

***Other than the temporary arrangement about not talking back that ended in 1948, but that was merely a tactic.

****Shortly after their retirement from the track and from the ring, Owens was racing horses as a stunt man, and Louis was refereeing wrestling matches and greeting gamblers in Las Vegas. And of course Robeson and DuBois were completely marginalized for their political beliefs.
   137. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 15, 2013 at 06:06 PM (#4415001)
Am I missing something? The Dodgers signed Robinson before the NFL signed Kenny Washington.

And if the Cleveland Browns of the AAFC (by example) and a few key Los Angeles politicians (by implied coercion) hadn't put the heat on the just-arrived Rams (who were looking to play in the city-owned Coliseum), there's no guarantee that the NFL would have integrated in 1946, a full year after Rickey had signed Robinson to his first contract.
   138. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:39 PM (#4415082)
Pro basketball wasn't integrated until 1950
The Basketball Association of America (the direct predicessor to the NBA) didn't even exist until '46, and was created as a way to add dates to hockey arenas. Further (according to this source) they didn't really prusue integration to keep Abe Saperstein happy because double-headers with Harlem Globetrotter games were their (BAA's) most profitable nights. So the situations aren't the same at all.

I don't pretend to know as much of the history of these sports as you do, Andy, but from what I've seen and read about other pro sports it was more of an "unoffical color bar" (your words) than what was going on with MLB at the time.
   139. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:41 PM (#4415085)
To white America, Robinson was literally the first public figure African American who had demonstrated in a totally mainstream and important part of American life that he could compete with whites on their own terms and beat them without compromising his beliefs in the slightest.*** All the others before him (Robeson, Louis, Owens, DuBois, etc.) had all been marginalized one way or another, either by suppression or condescension.****


WTF, Joe Louis was the biggest star of the biggest sport in America and made huge money because of his popularity. Hell, he pulled in $350,000 for the second Max Schmeling fight in 1938, the middle of the depression, and that's fair market value and nothing but. The problem is boxing had been integrated for so long that Louis was just standing in the footsteps of Johnson and Gans and Dixon and Flowers and Battling Siki and Armstrong and Lil' Joe Walcott, and so on, so perhaps that diminishes his imapact from our vantage point, but this idea that Louis was somehow less authentic because his handlers, black men like Jackie Blackburn and John Roxborough who lived the Jack Johnson fallout, told him not to run afoul of social mores presupposes that Louis would have wanted to do so in the first place. These were the *specific* rules Joe was asked to follow by Roxborough, most of which are completely unremarkable:

1) He was never to go into a nightclub alone. ####, every fighter should follow that rule.

2) There would be no soft fights. How closely this was followed is certainly a matter of debate. IMO his competition was excellent overall, "Bum of the Month Club" or not, but there are a few tomato cans in there.

3) There would be no fixed fights. Who would hold that against a boxer's management?

4) He was never to gloat over a fallen opponent. Very few fighters did that anyways - Dempsey, for example, the most savage fighter of the age and the biggest draw in boxing history, was notorious for helping fallen opponents to their feet after the referee counted them out (see the 1923 Firpo fight ~7:40, 1926 Dempsey vs Jack Sharkey ~4:15, and 1921 Dempsey vs Carpentier ~55:20. Boxers simply didn't gloat in the ring, it was considered poor form - when Bob Fitzsimmons beat Gentleman Jim Corbett in 1897 and was heard to shout to the fallen Corbett, "How do you like the view from down there you son of a #####," it was a minor scandal*.

5) He was to live and fight clean. Again, any fighter's management should impress this on their young charges.

6) He was to maintain a deadpan expression at all times. Obviously this never happened. Ever. Hell no.

7) He was never to have his picture taken along with a white woman. This happened anyways, he was photographed too often, but here's the sole significant concession that was asked of him that was at least attempted to be enforced. For what it's worth I don't find too many photos of Jackie Robinson with white women either.

I think it's enormously unfair to minimize Joe Louis' legacy by claiming he was some sort of "Tom", as Muhammad Ali shamefully did (Ali, famously raised in a middle class Louisville household, similar called the son of dirt-poor sharecroppers Joe Frazier an Uncle Tom as well). I think it's fairly clear that Louis was the first universally accepted black athletic hero and unlike Jesse Owens, Joe's status persisted for more than a decade. That his handlers made some early attempts at what we now considered completely unremarkable PR shouldn't be considered a mark against his accomplishments in any way. Cus D'Amato had Mike Tyson under a similar ascetic schedule, I think Tyson would have had a better career if he'd kept to it after D'Amato's death.

Shortly after their retirement from the track and from the ring, Owens was racing horses as a stunt man, and Louis was refereeing wrestling matches and greeting gamblers in Las Vegas.


That Joe Louis was famously bad with money and made numerous bad investments, had no accountant, and lavished gifts on friends and admirers and had a series of expensive divorces in no way makes him the least bit unusual among boxers to this very day. The fact that he was given a "nothing" job as "being Joe Louis" at a casino only underlines how widely respected and admired he was - no similar cushy post awaited dozens of other former champions who fell on hard times due to a lack of other skills and the depredations of managers and hangers-on. Former champions Max Baer and Primo Carnera became pro-wrestlers too - hell, Jack Dempsey, the biggest sports star of the first half of the century even dabbled in pro-wrestling and refereeing, and he at least had a successful restaurant to help pay the bills.


* That scandal was obscured by the larger scandal, which was the unheard-of presence of Fitzsimmons' wife Rose at ringside. She supposedly swore, compounding the horror.
   140. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:47 PM (#4415091)
Shortly after their retirement from the track and from the ring, Owens was racing horses as a stunt man, and Louis was refereeing wrestling matches and greeting gamblers in Las Vegas.
Was that atypical? Even Mickey Mantle worked as a casino greeter.
   141. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:08 PM (#4415123)
Pro basketball wasn't integrated until 1950

The Basketball Association of America (the direct predicessor to the NBA) didn't even exist until '46, and was created as a way to add dates to hockey arenas. Further (according to this source) they didn't really prusue integration to keep Abe Saperstein happy because double-headers with Harlem Globetrotter games were their (BAA's) most profitable nights. So the situations aren't the same at all.


You're absolutely right about one of the major reasons for the BAA/NBA color line (Globetrotters games were a staple of NBA doubleheaders well into the 60's), and we both forgot to mention that one of the earlier formed pro leagues (the NBL**) admitted an all-black Dayton Rens team for the 1948-49 season. So when I said that "pro basketball" wasn't integrated until 1950, I should have said the NBA.

I don't pretend to know as much of the history of these sports as you do, Andy, but from what I've seen and read about other pro sports it was more of an "unoffical color bar" (your words) than what was going on with MLB at the time.

Well, basketball was a bit different, even though it wasn't truly integrated until 1948-49. The NBL had been around since 1937 without any black players, while all-black teams competed separately. But then at the end of the season they were thrown together in a mixed invitational pro basketball tournament sponsored by the Chicago American Newspaper. Usually one of the NBL teams like the Pistons or the Lakers would win, but there were years when all-black teams like the Harlem Globetrotters, the Washington Bears or the Rens took home the money.

But I can't see much difference between the NFL and MLB once the 1933 color bar set in. Neither league had a formal rule against blacks, but every time the subject came up it was stonewalled. The color line in college football was much more nuanced, but then college baseball was probably open to blacks in the north just as well.

**The NBL is where the Lakers, the Kings and the Pistons franchises originally came from. It was merged with the BAA to form the modern NBA, and quickly pared itself down to 8 teams before gradually beginning to expand in the 60's.
   142. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:15 PM (#4415138)
The AAFL had black players from its inaugural in '46, and despite what George Marshall thought was probably at least as good as the NFL from day one.
   143. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:26 PM (#4415154)
YR,

Louis wasn't a Tom, he was 100% authentic, he made a ton of money, and he was enormously popular with whites not living in Yorkville. But his impact was strictly limited to the world of sport, and as you say, he was in many ways merely following in the footsteps of others. His impact on both the U.S. and the greater world weren't remotely comparable to Jackie Robinson's.

-------------------------------------

Shortly after their retirement from the track and from the ring, Owens was racing horses as a stunt man, and Louis was refereeing wrestling matches and greeting gamblers in Las Vegas.

Was that atypical? Even Mickey Mantle worked as a casino greeter.


It wasn't untypical at all for a retired athlete, but then my point is that Jackie Robinson was most untypical. He spent his post-baseball years on corporate boards and fighting for social justice, corresponding with politicians, businessmen and civil rights leaders to an extent that his letters to them have been collected in a book. No disrespect to Joe Louis, but his retirement years weren't quite on that level of engagement with the world.
   144. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:30 PM (#4415160)
The AAF[C] had black players from its inaugural in '46, and despite what George Marshall thought was probably at least as good as the NFL from day one.

Right, which is why I alluded to the Cleveland Browns in #137 as having influenced the NFL L.A. Rams' decision to integrate that same year. Paul Brown was the true Branch Rickey of pro football, a legacy which often gets forgotten.
   145. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:35 PM (#4415172)
It wasn't untypical at all for a retired athlete, but then my point is that Jackie Robinson was most untypical. He spent his post-baseball years on corporate boards and fighting for social justice, corresponding with politicians, businessmen and civil rights leaders to an extent that his letters to them have been collected in a book. No disrespect to Joe Louis, but his retirement years weren't quite on that level of engagement with the world.
Here's what I was responding to:
All the others before him (Robeson, Louis, Owens, DuBois, etc.) had all been marginalized one way or another, either by suppression or condescension.****

****Shortly after their retirement from the track and from the ring, Owens was racing horses as a stunt man, and Louis was refereeing wrestling matches and greeting gamblers in Las Vegas. And of course Robeson and DuBois were completely marginalized for their political beliefs.
Pardon my directness, but you do seem to mean to disrespect Lewis as "marginalized by suppression or consescension".
   146. Publius Publicola Posted: April 15, 2013 at 09:04 PM (#4415209)
Louis wasn't a Tom, he was 100% authentic, he made a ton of money, and he was enormously popular with whites not living in Yorkville. But his impact was strictly limited to the world of sport, and as you say, he was in many ways merely following in the footsteps of others. His impact on both the U.S. and the greater world weren't remotely comparable to Jackie Robinson's.


I would argue that Louis laid the groundwork for Robinson is the same way that A. Phillip Randolph laid the groundwork for King. Desegregation was a continuum, not an event.

And Louis beating Schmeling had a political significance every bit as noteworthy as anything Robinson did.

And what about Isaac Murphy, who won 3(!) Kentucky Derbies in the late 1800's?
   147. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:06 PM (#4415337)
Here's what I was responding to:

All the others before him (Robeson, Louis, Owens, DuBois, etc.) had all been marginalized one way or another, either by suppression or condescension.****

****Shortly after their retirement from the track and from the ring, Owens was racing horses as a stunt man, and Louis was refereeing wrestling matches and greeting gamblers in Las Vegas. And of course Robeson and DuBois were completely marginalized for their political beliefs.


Pardon my directness, but you do seem to mean to disrespect Lewis as "marginalized by suppression or condescension".


I think here you're confusing the messenger with the message. Disrespect would imply that I put Louis's marginalization on Louis's shoulders, as opposed to merely noting the roles that white America limited him to outside the ring. Robeson and DuBois were even more marginalized than Louis or Owens, albeit in a different way; do you think I'm also disrespecting them?

---------------------------------------------------------

I would argue that Louis laid the groundwork for Robinson is the same way that A. Phillip Randolph laid the groundwork for King. Desegregation was a continuum, not an event.

Of course it was, and of course Randolph's union activities helped many thousands of blacks enter the striving middle class, even as whites treated train porters as a punch line in "Chattanooga Choo-Choo". But while Randolph was being written up in Opportunity and The Crisis, Robinson was gracing the covers of TIME and LIFE. It's certainly no mark against Randolph that white America barely knew who he was, but while Randolph helped pave the way for collective action down the road (he was one of the leaders of both the aborted 1941 March on Washington** and the mammoth 1963 demonstration of the same name), Robinson captured the imagination of the entire country in a way that no union leader ever did.

And Louis beating Schmeling had a political significance every bit as noteworthy as anything Robinson did.

Sure, for a few years after the fight, as long as the Nazis were there as a counterpoint. But there had been several black boxing champions before Louis, even a heavyweight champion, whereas Robinson was a true trailblazer in a sport that afforded far more opportunities and was far more a part of everyday American mainstream consciousness.

And again, Robinson was an exceedingly well-spoken college man who took his game to the highest level in the national pastime, the game which at the time was endlessly touted as one of the greatest symbols of American Democracy in action. He provided the sort of example that heretofore had been unknown to white Americans. Louis was a great athlete, a good man, and among black Americans a temporary symbol of a nascent sort of black power, but aside from the symbolic impact of that one fight he never really transcended his sport among the country as a whole.

And what about Isaac Murphy, who won 3(!) Kentucky Derbies in the late 1800's?

Murphy was so influential that the Derby barred black jockeys shortly after that. That's not to say he wasn't an important historical figure, like Matthew Henson or Major Taylor, but his influence on the careers of future would-be black jockeys was short lived to say the least.

**The threat of which caused FDR to establish a temporary FEPC to require non-discrimination in war contract hiring.
   148. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 16, 2013 at 12:06 AM (#4415366)
I think here you're confusing the messenger with the message. Disrespect would imply that I put Louis's marginalization on Louis's shoulders, as opposed to merely noting the roles that white America limited him to outside the ring.


In all honesty I'm not sure what out-of-ring opportunities Louis would have been particularly well-suited for. He really was a quiet country boy (not some raccoon coat-wearing college fancy lad like Robinson), poorly educated and coming from a sport where very few "crossover" successes existed. Counting back from Louis, here's what the heavyweight champs ended up doing:

Jim Braddock - A former dockworker, he started a successful construction company and sold salvaged equipment on the side.
Max Baer - Pro-wrestling and acting.
Primo Carnera - Pro-wrestling and acting.
Jack Sharkey - Ran a bar, occasionally worked as a boxing and pro-wrestling referee.
Max Schmeling - Never joined the Nazi party, parlayed his fame and connections into a very successful Coca Cola bottling plant in post-war Germany.
Gene Tunney - Married "well". Really well.
Jack Dempsey - Owned a successful restaurant in New York, did some promoting and refereeing.
Jess Willard - A former ranch hand, he owned a working farm and toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
Jack Johnson - Boxed into his 50s. Also boxed in illegal underground fights for gamblers. Vaudeville.
Tommy Burns - Day laborer, bank security guard, minister.
James Jeffries - Son of a farmer, Jeffries retired young and purchased 100 acres of prime farmland in Burbank. He also promoted fights on the property.
Bob Fitzsimmons - Was briefly a successful public speaker for "Athletic Christianity" but died less than a decade after retirement.
James Corbett - Film and stage acting.
John L Sullivan - Professional alcoholic, followed by a stint as a temperance speaker.

On the whole Louis ended up better than most, with a cushy casino job that let him play golf several days a week and gamble a few hands with the high rollers using house money. Pretty much everyone felt like Joe was taken advantage of by his management and unfairly oppressed by the IRS and there were no shortage of bigtime benefactors who gave him a comfortable living in retirement - Jack Dempsey, Max Schmeling, and Frank Sinatra, as well as several members of the mob, all made sure Joe was taken care of for the rest of his life (
perhaps you didn't know this).

Murphy was so influential that the Derby barred black jockeys shortly after that.


And now people call you a bigot if you want to put a statue of him on your lawn! What is this world coming to?
   149. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 16, 2013 at 01:21 AM (#4415394)
YR: I was wondering on the thread where we talked about Micheal Mann's movie, Ali, whether it was true Ali ducked a rematch with Foreman after Zaire. For some reason I'm drawing a blank.
   150. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 16, 2013 at 08:21 AM (#4415436)
I think here you're confusing the messenger with the message. Disrespect would imply that I put Louis's marginalization on Louis's shoulders, as opposed to merely noting the roles that white America limited him to outside the ring
No, I object to the term "marginalization" WRT Louis. He seems to have held a job that many other athletes did when they had no other skills outside of athltics (before the age of "color commentary"). Bluntly, I think you're the one marginalizing his post-boxing career, not his contemporary society.
   151. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 16, 2013 at 09:15 AM (#4415472)
I think here you're confusing the messenger with the message. Disrespect would imply that I put Louis's marginalization on Louis's shoulders, as opposed to merely noting the roles that white America limited him to outside the ring

No, I object to the term "marginalization" WRT Louis. He seems to have held a job that many other athletes did when they had no other skills outside of athltics (before the age of "color commentary"). Bluntly, I think you're the one marginalizing his post-boxing career, not his contemporary society.


There are really two separate and only somewhat related points that I'm trying to make.

My main point is that Jackie Robinson was transformational in a way that no African American public figure had previously been, since he transcended sports not just during a brief moment during his playing career, but afterwards as well. He was the first visible black athlete to delve into broader societal issues and not be marginalized for his opinions a la Robeson. He was a living and contemporary role model for the civil rights movement, a fact acknowledged by many of that movement's leaders, including Martin Luther King. Robinson's impact on American society as an educated black man who broke ground in America's premier sport was so far beyond that of Joe Louis in so many ways, and for so many years, that it's barely even worth discussing. You can say that Louis's post-boxing career wasn't all that different from many former white champions, but nobody's claiming that they had any lasting impact on society, either.

And when you're comparing Louis's post-boxing career to former champions, you also shouldn't be comparing apples and oranges. In the era of mass publicity that began with the advent of the radio, there have been only three champions that stood out as "iconic": Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali. You might possibly add Rocky Marciano to that list, but his reign lasted for three short years (from Walcott I to Archie Moore), and he's not really in the same category.

The first of these, Dempsey, was just as crude and uneducated as Louis, and yet he was able to parlay his connections into a long lifetime career as a successful restauranteur just off Times Square, a restaurant that became a magnet for tourists until the day that it closed. That sort of ending would have been impossible for Joe Louis, if for no other reason than the fact that in his era black boxers were seen as little more than exotic specimen** that were only vaguely acknowledged as human beings. That's not ideology speaking, but merely empirical observation. (Louis was able to parlay his connections into jobs as a wrestling referee and a Las Vegas greeter, IOW a glorified welfare recipient.***)

Ali was certainly transformational in another way, but by the time he came along there were countless other African American athletes who had already proven their ability to compete with whites. And while he's an important historical figure in terms of moral example (if you overlook his NOI gibberish), you sure as hell never saw him corresponding with national and world leaders on matters of substance in the way that Robinson did. He was a great fighter and a great symbolic figure, but nowhere near on Robinson's level in terms of being any sort of realistic role model for anyone.

**If you ever doubt this sort of marginalization, just take a look at many of the contemporary cartoons of Louis and other black athletes that appeared on many of the sports pages.

***And as that Baltimore Afro-American article that YR linked to noted, Dempsey was among the former fighters and other celebrities who propped up Louis's finances when he was under attack by the IRS. The symbolism there couldn't have been more perfect.
   152. DL from MN Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:08 AM (#4415506)
I saw the movie and enjoyed it. I think the sepia tone color scheme is a visual clue that the story was not trying to be hyper-accurate. It is as historically accurate as people's memories, which is to say the details might get jumbled up and the sentiment altered by perspective. I was most impressed by how they brought Ebbetts Field back from the dead (along with Crosley Field, Shibe Park and Forbes Field).
   153. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 16, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4415572)
Even though "42" might not have been the movie I would've ideally like to have seen, I was still glad to learn that it easily led at the box office over the weekend with over $27 million. Since it only cost $35M to make, that'll be encouraging to future filmmakers. And after remembering the typically moronic nature of the five films that were previewed in the theater before the beginning of "42", I find myself thinking that it's almost a minor miracle that "42" came out as well as it did, historical embellishments and all.
   154. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 16, 2013 at 01:48 PM (#4415755)
The first of these, Dempsey, was just as crude and uneducated as Louis, and yet he was able to parlay his connections into a long lifetime career as a successful restauranteur just off Times Square, a restaurant that became a magnet for tourists until the day that it closed. That sort of ending would have been impossible for Joe Louis, if for no other reason than the fact that in his era black boxers were seen as little more than exotic specimen** that were only vaguely acknowledged as human beings. That's not ideology speaking, but merely empirical observation. (Louis was able to parlay his connections into jobs as a wrestling referee and a Las Vegas greeter, IOW a glorified welfare recipient.***)


I think you're making a serious error here in assuming that because jack Dempsey and Joe Louis were both successful boxers, they shared many other traits in common and were thus entitled to similar outcomes. That glosses over several very significant factors - for one, Dempsey wasn't just more popular than Louis, he was more popular than any professional boxer in the world until the 70s heyday of Muhammad Ali. Secondly, Dempsey became the world's biggest sports star right in the heart of the Roaring 20s, while Louis ascended during the nadir of the Great Depression.

Then there's temperament. Both Dempsey and Louis were poorly-educated, yes, but Dempsey saw his boxing success as his entry into wider society and made a very focused, concerted effort to integrate himself. He took diction lessons, hired what we would now call a "stylist" to make sure this former hobo camp brawler looked like a proper Beau Brummell, and on the advice of a businessman he met on holiday insisted on reading a local newspaper front-to-back, wherever he was, so that he could engage in "small talk" with anyone he met even if they weren't boxing savvy.

When Dempsey became champion he saw it as his opportunity to finally STOP fighting (he'd had some 100 fights in his career to that point, more than 50 still without formal documentation) and famously "went Hollywood" where he quickly ingratiated himself to top stars like Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, who viewed Dempsey as a legitimate real-life action hero full of thrilling tales of sawdust saloons and cowboy brothels. He acted in a series of terrible, terrible movies, and over the course of his championship reign (1919-1926) only defended his title a mere 6 times. Louis came up as a fighter and stayed a fighter - his 25 championship defenses are still the all-time record, no song and dance sidelines for Joe, who hated speaking in public anyhow.

You can't compare any other fighter of that era to Dempsey in terms of appeal and popularity. Nobody stacks up.
   155. Cris E Posted: April 16, 2013 at 02:02 PM (#4415784)
The guy I saw it with pointed out how hard it is to make a superb movie based on real and significant events simply because it can be hard to maintain any tension when everyone knows what happens. But I think it's going to get a spot in the standard high school curriculum as a good movie to illustrate what the civil rights movement was fighting. The movie did simplify a lot of what happened, but it did show that not all parts of the country had separate facilities, that virulent racism was quite a bit different, more blatant, than what current students might have seen in their lives, and that it really was frustrating to not be able to do anything about it when the authorities were the ones causing the trouble. Somebody somewhere, Posnanski maybe, described it as more of an emotional movie than an intellectual one, and it does establish the mood, time and place pretty well. As baseball history it's got holes, but it would be fine as the central piece of a good discussion in a civics class.

   156. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 16, 2013 at 02:28 PM (#4415833)
I think you're making a serious error here in assuming that because jack Dempsey and Joe Louis were both successful boxers, they shared many other traits in common and were thus entitled to similar outcomes. That glosses over several very significant factors - for one, Dempsey wasn't just more popular than Louis, he was more popular than any professional boxer in the world until the 70s heyday of Muhammad Ali.

And why may that have been? I thought that Louis was the man who showed the world in a mere 124 seconds that the Master Race was just a myth, and spit in Hitler's eye right along with Donald Duck. What could have been more heroic than that?

Secondly, Dempsey became the world's biggest sports star right in the heart of the Roaring 20s, while Louis ascended during the nadir of the Great Depression.

There's something to that, but then Louis was also the champ all during the boom years of World War II, which didn't seem to do much for him other than to make him a living example of a variant of the Tennessee Ernie Ford song: Another few years older and another few hundred thousand dollars deeper in debt. For all those friends of his, not one of them was apparently a reputable tax adviser.

Then there's temperament. Both Dempsey and Louis were poorly-educated, yes, but Dempsey saw his boxing success as his entry into wider society and made a very focused, concerted effort to integrate himself. He took diction lessons, hired what we would now call a "stylist" to make sure this former hobo camp brawler looked like a proper Beau Brummell, and on the advice of a businessman he met on holiday insisted on reading a local newspaper front-to-back, wherever he was, so that he could engage in "small talk" with anyone he met even if they weren't boxing savvy.

This again is a distinction worth noting between Louis and Dempsey, but with every passing paragraph you're even further stretching the chasm between Louis and Jackie Robinson, which was the main point I've been making all along.

When Dempsey became champion he saw it as his opportunity to finally STOP fighting (he'd had some 100 fights in his career to that point, more than 50 still without formal documentation) and famously "went Hollywood" where he quickly ingratiated himself to top stars like Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, who viewed Dempsey as a legitimate real-life action hero full of thrilling tales of sawdust saloons and cowboy brothels. He acted in a series of terrible, terrible movies, and over the course of his championship reign (1919-1926) only defended his title a mere 6 times. Louis came up as a fighter and stayed a fighter - his 25 championship defenses are still the all-time record, no song and dance sidelines for Joe, who hated speaking in public anyhow.

The question then is: What would have happened to Louis if he'd tried ingratiating himself with similar celebrities? Do you think they'd have let him into their circle? Do you think they'd have let him act in the B-movie circuit for any director but Oscar Micheaux or Spencer Williams?

You can't compare any other fighter of that era to Dempsey in terms of appeal and popularity. Nobody stacks up.

Perhaps so, but just as surely, you can't compare the relatively fleeting impact of Joe Louis (or of any other African American public figure prior to 1947) to the far more lasting legacy of Jackie Robinson.
   157. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 16, 2013 at 02:37 PM (#4415846)
The guy I saw it with pointed out how hard it is to make a superb movie based on real and significant events simply because it can be hard to maintain any tension when everyone knows what happens. But I think it's going to get a spot in the standard high school curriculum as a good movie to illustrate what the civil rights movement was fighting. The movie did simplify a lot of what happened, but it did show that not all parts of the country had separate facilities, that virulent racism was quite a bit different, more blatant, than what current students might have seen in their lives, and that it really was frustrating to not be able to do anything about it when the authorities were the ones causing the trouble. Somebody somewhere, Posnanski maybe, described it as more of an emotional movie than an intellectual one, and it does establish the mood, time and place pretty well. As baseball history it's got holes, but it would be fine as the central piece of a good discussion in a civics class.

That's a good point, and the more I think about "42", the more I see its value. People who lived through the Jim Crow era are sometimes unaware of just how few people alive today have the same first hand memories**, and any movie that can bring even the crude outlines of that era to a mass audience of today deserves more than a fair amount of respect.

Although I'll add this: I'd love to see the makers of "42" take some of their profits and buy bulk quantities of the Eyes on the Prize and King: From Montgomery to Memphis documentaries and distribute them to classrooms. Having seen "42", students might have a much better background to appreciate and understand the unadulterated history that those two films display.

**And of course the great majority of those who do remember it never had any problem with its mores, since they weren't the ones being held back by it.
   158. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 16, 2013 at 03:01 PM (#4415892)
People who lived through the Jim Crow era are sometimes unaware of just how few people alive today have the same first hand memories
The scene in Crosley Field where the boy shouts "N!gger!" after his Dad did was pretty poignant to me.
   159. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 16, 2013 at 04:31 PM (#4416018)
People who lived through the Jim Crow era are sometimes unaware of just how few people alive today have the same first hand memories

The scene in Crosley Field where the boy shouts "N!gger!" after his Dad did was pretty poignant to me.


Especially since it wasn't followed up later by one of those instant Seeing The Light conversions after Robinson comes through with a game winning hit, a scenario that's been used as a cliche in other message movies like this. The way that this father-son mimicking was portrayed might have been a bit heavyhanded, but it certainly wasn't beyond the realm of possibility in the real world of 1947.

And though I seriously doubt that a kid like that wouldn't have heard that word from his Dad many times before, to hear it being directed at a teammate of his favorite player (Pee Wee Reese) might well have made the boy think it was perfectly acceptable to use it as a form of jockeying a la Ben Chapman. It was far from being the movie's most ahistorical moment.
   160. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 18, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4417947)
YR: I was wondering on the thread where we talked about Micheal Mann's movie, Ali, whether it was true Ali ducked a rematch with Foreman after Zaire. For some reason I'm drawing a blank.


So in my own capacity as a "historian" I'm very VERY reluctant to accept charges of "ducking" because they are so damning, and because so many factors go into making a prizefight. In this particular instance my opinion is that Ali was in no hurry to get back in the ring with Foreman but would probably have done so if:

a) Foreman himself didn't blow off more than an entire year of competition, only appearing in the ring during a bizarre 5 fight "exhibition" in Toronto (you can watch the video here, it's the sort of bombastic thing that no other fighter would dare to pull off).

b) A big-money guarantee materialized equal or greater than the $6 million Ali was promised for a third Frazier fight in Manilla

and

c) The third fight with Frazier hadn't completely drained Ali physically. Yes, I do believe that this fight essentially marked the end of Ali as an elite fighter and that Ali and his trainers knew it. Foreman was too young and hit too hard to risk it.

So I consider Ali's failure to rematch Foreman to be a confluence of events more nuanced than a simple charge of "ducking". By 1977 Foreman himself had lost interest in fighting and lost to a very tricky but ultimately middle contender in Jimmy Young and retired. Given Foreman's own time away from the ring, the window for a rematch was fairly small.
   161. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 18, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4418050)
Dempsey wasn't just more popular than Louis, he was more popular than any professional boxer in the world until the 70s heyday of Muhammad Ali.

And why may that have been? I thought that Louis was the man who showed the world in a mere 124 seconds that the Master Race was just a myth, and spit in Hitler's eye right along with Donald Duck. What could have been more heroic than that?


Come on Andy, it isn't enough to simply recognize that Dempsey was singularly captivating in a way that went beyond his in-ring efforts (which were captivating enough - the 1919 Willard fight is often called the most violent thrashing in heavyweight history, the 1923 Firpo fight the greatest single round in heavyweight history)? Nobody would argue the unfairness of Dempsey's legend overshadowing legitimately great champions from James J Jeffries through Rocky Marciano, he was quite simply a rock star who boxed on occasion.

Here's a point I like to make when discussing how Mike Tyson was overrated compared to his actual in-ring competition. Look at Tyson's record for his first 30 fights or so. Make a mental note of how much publicity and media coverage he received.

Now look at the record of a fighter Tyson avoided in his career, and note how similar the accomplishments are. And then recall how little you know about this man in comparison.

It doesn't have to be "race" that makes one fighter's presence overshadow another's. Mike Tyson was an oversized presence in boxing to this very day, still appearing in movies, starring in theater, capturing headlines where he goes, while Evander Holyfield is an afterthought and the Klitschko Brothers, the CURRENT champions, and nonentities in the public imagination. Dempsey was the equivalent of an Ali or Tyson, bigger than boxing. Joe Louis was arguably the best heavyweight champion of all-time and a national hero, but he was just a boxer.

Secondly, Dempsey became the world's biggest sports star right in the heart of the Roaring 20s, while Louis ascended during the nadir of the Great Depression.

There's something to that, but then Louis was also the champ all during the boom years of World War II, which didn't seem to do much for him other than to make him a living example of a variant of the Tennessee Ernie Ford song: Another few years older and another few hundred thousand dollars deeper in debt. For all those friends of his, not one of them was apparently a reputable tax adviser.


I'm not debating that, as it's irrefutable than Louis mismanaged his money. He's hardly the first fighter to do so, and he didn't help his case with multiple divorces and entrusting his management with all fiscal matters - an error that fighters make to this very day. Benny Leonard, still considered one of the top lightweight champions of all-time, was considered a particularly shrewd and serious handler of his money, and he still got wiped out in the 1929 stock market crash and had to make a comeback himself. It happens. I don't see how this reflects badly on Louis when it's such a well-known hazard - Mike Tyson is broke himself these days, some 50 years after Louis last entered a ring.

This again is a distinction worth noting between Louis and Dempsey, but with every passing paragraph you're even further stretching the chasm between Louis and Jackie Robinson, which was the main point I've been making all along.


Louis was a sports hero, and the greatest black sports hero the country had ever seen. His success made Jackie Robinson an inevitability - no coincidence that Joe was still champion when Branch Rickey signed Robinson, after all. No coincidence that the team that signed Robinson was located in the same city that served as Joe's primary headquarters, site of his last 8 consecutive title defenses. Joe Louis changed the game for everyone that followed after him.

The question then is: What would have happened to Louis if he'd tried ingratiating himself with similar celebrities?


Well it isn't as if there weren't black entertainers in New York during Joe's reign. Joe Louis wasn't Jack Dempsey. He didn't have the same extroversion, or the same internal desire to be liked and respected by different strata in society. As I mentioned previously, Dempsey made a very conscious effort, very early in his championship reign, to make himself the sort of man who could fit in at the highest levels of society. Joe Louis didn't do this - nobody else did this (well OK, Gene Tunney, but he was already that sort of man)! In this respect Joe Louis was entirely typical as a fighter - most prizefighters didn't *want* celebrity or to rub elbows with the swells at the country club. James J Jeffries, considered by his contemporaries as the greatest fighter to ever step in the ring and a man whose dominance essentially killed the popularity of the heavyweight title, absolutely hated fraternizing outside of his circle of fighters and rugged toughs. He was the son of a farmer who wanted a simple quiet life. It wasn't his nature to chase celebrity. Joe Louis had more in common with Jeffries, temperamentally, than he did with Dempsey.

Do you think they'd have let him into their circle? Do you think they'd have let him act in the B-movie circuit for any director but Oscar Micheaux or Spencer Williams?


Well even leaving aside the fact that I've never seen any evidence that Louis *wanted* to act, I think you might be overestimating his suitability for the theater. Joe was a regular country boy, simple-spoken and not expressive by nature. Go to about 11:20 here for an interview with Louis after his fight with "Two Ton" Tony Galento. He was a fighter, not an entertainer.

Perhaps so, but just as surely, you can't compare the relatively fleeting impact of Joe Louis (or of any other African American public figure prior to 1947) to the far more lasting legacy of Jackie Robinson.


I simply disagree. Joe Louis not only made segregation entirely untenable in American sport, but became a universal sports hero the likes of which Jackie Robinson never approached, and did it at a higher level in a more difficult sport.
   162. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 18, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4418077)
DERP
   163. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 18, 2013 at 01:49 PM (#4418091)
Oh, real quick Andy I wanted to mention that while Jack Dempsey's restaurant eventually became a very successful source of post-career success, it wasn't until the late-40s, when Jack himself started becoming a regular presence at the restaurant, that it actually became profitable. Jack also had the sense to later bring in some real hardcore restaurant guys to help streamline operations, the sort of commonsensical things that restaurantaurs don't do properly to this day. Guys like Anthony Passeggiato and Ray Ameil made sure the menus were presentable, the place was clean, and the operations efficient, and Jack could gladhand his way around the place chatting and signing autographs. They also hired a fantastic house band, and I would know, because it was my grandfather's own orchestra :)

The restaurant business is murder under the best of circumstances, I'm sure you've seen how many athletes try their hand at opening a bar or steakhouse only to have it flounder and die in a few years. Louis himself made a go at it with typical results. I doubt one athlete-branded restaurant in 100 has the kind of long-term success Dempsey's did, but that wasn't without a fair bit of hands-on effort from the man himself.
   164. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 18, 2013 at 07:00 PM (#4418520)
@160: thanks, YR. That all sounds perfectly credible (to my admittedly very limited knowledge of that period). Btw, have you ever seen Mann's Ali.
   165. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 18, 2013 at 10:26 PM (#4418720)
I saw it opening weekend, whenever the heck that was. I didn't much care for it. Will Smith doesn't resemble Ali in the ring at all and it takes more than a raspy voice to emulate one of the most famous men of the 20th century. I'd say just stick with watching "When We Were Kings", an excellent documentary on the Ali vs Foreman bout.
   166. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 18, 2013 at 11:30 PM (#4418799)
In the ring he was better as the older Ali, that's for certain. I would have been genuinely impressed if he could have whipped out the Ali shuffle like Ali did in a Cosell interview, once upon a time.
   167. Sunday silence Posted: April 19, 2013 at 12:01 AM (#4418820)
The part that contradicts Andy's theory of Jackie Robinson is that most people didnt get JR's politics after his baseball career was over. He wasnt the only athlete in the civil rights movement either. Andy acts like he was the only one or something. Frankly I dont get what he was doing in the republican party and neither did most people. I agree his importance in baseball cannot be underestimated.

As for baseball movies, you all seemed to miss what may be the best and that is A League of Their Own, about the short lived female league. Another one that is pretty good is Bang the Drum Slowly which I am not sure whether it was a TV movie or not. DeNiro is not very good at taking at bats or looking like a major league catcher but MIchael Moriarity is superb. So is that guy who plays the manager.

I like Raging Bull but it doesnt really stand up to repeat viewings. Without the crazy, over the top performance of Joe Pesci that movie is merely good not great. Granted Pesci is part of the movie, but the only great part for me is Pesci's performance, the plot, the acting, the dialogue is not up there.
   168. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 19, 2013 at 01:20 AM (#4418866)
I wanted to like a A league of Their Own. I really did, but it was a run of the mill tearjerker throwing up just enough grit to put up a pretense that it was really about life lived. Jesus. It was directed by Penny Marshall. That's a recipe for mediocrity. No--it's a guarantee.

   169. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 19, 2013 at 01:23 AM (#4418868)
She was good as the Babysitter Bandit.
   170. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: April 19, 2013 at 02:15 AM (#4418887)
I like Raging Bull but it doesnt really stand up to repeat viewings. Without the crazy, over the top performance of Joe Pesci that movie is merely good not great. Granted Pesci is part of the movie, but the only great part for me is Pesci's performance, the plot, the acting, the dialogue is not up there.


What about the actual boxing scenes? I still find them mesmerizing.
   171. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 19, 2013 at 07:25 AM (#4419021)
YR, as always, you're a fountain of information about anyone and everyone associated with the ring. But as someone who's spent a fair amount of time immersed in both the sports and the politics of the Louis and the Robinson eras, I don't think there's any question that Robinson's career had a more significant---and especially a more lasting---impact than Louis's. The heavyweight champion was perhaps the most important title in the sports world, and by "retrieving" that crown after a period of blackballing, Louis made an undeniably important statement about black athletic ability, and in particular a statement about a black athlete's heart.

OTOH Robinson not only made an equally dramatic statement, but....

1. Robinson did it in the National Pastime, during an era when those words weren't being used ironically.

2. Robinson did it day after day after day, not just a few times a year, and not just against the baseball equivalent of the Bum of the Month Club. Nobody can fault Louis for the poor quality of many of his opponents, but they did help to pad his record for the first part of his career. Robinson had few such respites.

3. Robinson performed at the highest level under the sort of social constraints that most people today can't even begin to imagine. Although "42" does a fairly good job of suggesting them, it couldn't possibly recreate the neverending day-to-day grind, with humiliation after humiliation that under Rickey's terms (and in many cases out of elementary caution) he was forced to handle with a stoicism required of no other athlete before or since. His performance through that ordeal---which in many ways paralleled the experiences of many millions of black people in their everyday lives---was what elevated Robinson's achievements well out of the purely athletic realm, and provided in many ways a living model for larger political movements that were soon to emerge.

None of this denigrates Joe Louis's impact on anybody, but I just can't see his achievement as having the same effect as Robinson's, either at the time or in the aftermath.

--------------------------------------------------------

The part that contradicts Andy's theory of Jackie Robinson is that most people didnt get JR's politics after his baseball career was over.

Well, "politics" goes beyond Democrats vs Republicans, and once Rickey's wraps were removed, Robinson was repeatedly outspoken on matters that were 100% political in nature. One example was the time on a radio show in the early 50's that he blasted the Yankees for their failure to promote a black player, and stuck with that accusation after nearly the entire white media told him to just STFU and stick to baseball. This and other incidents were widely reported and known during his career.

He wasn't the only athlete in the civil rights movement either. Andy acts like he was the only one or something.

During Robinson's career he most certainly was the only prominent black athlete who was as outspoken as he was about racial matters. Of course many others were to follow after Robinson retired----and nearly every last one of them from Hank Aaron on down credited Robinson's example as being their inspiration.

Frankly I dont get what he was doing in the republican party and neither did most people.

Two main reasons, both entirely understandable.

First, he didn't want for black people to put all their eggs in one basket.

Second, the Democratic Party of 1947-56 bore little resemblance to the Democratic Party of today, given the stranglehold of the Dixiecrat committee chairmen on civil rights legislation, and given the fact that the Jim Crow system of the South was established and maintained during the era of total Dixiecrat dominance. Your confusion would make complete sense if it were to be centered on the period after 1964, when the former Dixiecrats and their ideological successors bolted the Democratic Party and migrated to the GOP. But in the context of Robinson's playing career era, his Republican identification wasn't all that controversial, and after Goldwater went "hunting where the ducks are" and aimed his southern campaign at the racist white majority**, Robinson pretty much saw the light and shed his former allegiance.

**And no, Goldwater wasn't personally a racist of any type, but by voting against the 1964 CRA, he gave the defecting Dixiecrats everything they wanted. You didn't have to have been a dog to have heard that whistle. This fact seems to be understood by every historian not named David Nieporent.
   172. GregD Posted: April 19, 2013 at 10:16 AM (#4419179)
I've always assumed Robinson's Republicanism was in part a reflection of his Southern mother. No black people in Georgia in 1919 had any need to be told what the Democratic Party was. While one could have complex views of the Republican Party, there's no question it was the more enlightened racially (even if it had its own lily white faction.) His middle name is for Teddy Roosevelt, who while no saint had invited Booker T Washington to dinner at the White House, a story very well-known to rural Southern blacks.

Had Robinson stayed in Georgia, there would have been less than no question why he was a Republican through the 1950s. The mystery to me is why he or his mother (I assume) didn't shift to the Democrats as many (not all) migrating blacks did when they arrived in non-Southern cities. I don't know anything about Pasadena politics to know that. Oscar DePriest gets defeated by a Democrat in Chicago in 1934(though he goes back to City Council still as a Republican) so the transition is happening other places.

In New York Irving Iyes (whose protege Jacob Javits became an icon of liberal Republicanism) was in the U.S. Senate and was a well-known civil rights supporter; on the other hand Iyes beat Democrat Herbert Lehman, who was a liberal himself, and the Powell family had shifted from Republican to Democratic in the late 1920s or early 1930s, so he certainly had experiences with plenty of black Democrats in New York.
   173. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 19, 2013 at 10:44 AM (#4419225)
I've always assumed Robinson's Republicanism was in part a reflection of his Southern mother. No black people in Georgia in 1919 had any need to be told what the Democratic Party was. While one could have complex views of the Republican Party, there's no question it was the more enlightened racially (even if it had its own lily white faction.) His middle name is for Teddy Roosevelt, who while no saint had invited Booker T Washington to dinner at the White House, a story very well-known to rural Southern blacks.

Had Robinson stayed in Georgia, there would have been less than no question why he was a Republican through the 1950s. The mystery to me is why he or his mother (I assume) didn't shift to the Democrats as many (not all) migrating blacks did when they arrived in non-Southern cities. I don't know anything about Pasadena politics to know that. Oscar DePriest gets defeated by a Democrat in Chicago in 1934(though he goes back to City Council still as a Republican) so the transition is happening other places
.

There was nothing particularly liberal about the Democratic Party of Southern California during Jackie Robinson's years there. In fact well into the 1960's one of the more right wing Mayors in non-Dixiecrat states was LA's Sam Yorty, who was a lifelong Democrat until switching parties in (surprise, surprise) 1980. There were virtually no SoCal Democrats in the 1930's and early 40's whose racial views would have been as liberal as the most prominent New York State and City Republicans of the 1940's and 1950's. Robinson's political allegiances during that period were surprising only to those who thought that all blacks think alike.

In New York Irving Ives (whose protege Jacob Javits became an icon of liberal Republicanism) was in the U.S. Senate and was a well-known civil rights supporter; on the other hand Ives beat Democrat Herbert Lehman, who was a liberal himself, and the Powell family had shifted from Republican to Democratic in the late 1920s or early 1930s, so he certainly had experiences with plenty of black Democrats in New York.

Within New York State or New York City politics, the racial issue (or civil rights issue) wouldn't have been decisive during Robinson's time, since there was little difference between the leading Republicans and Democrats back then. It wasn't until the 1964 Harlem riots that the consensus began to show splits, and even then it was more within particular congressional districts than it was statewide. The Republican Kenneth Keating had defended Ives' Senate seat while swimming against a massive Democratic tide in 1958, and he refused to endorse Barry Goldwater in 1964, when the Harlem riots were fresh in the headlines and talk of a white backlash had already begun to take root.
   174. BDC Posted: April 27, 2013 at 09:54 PM (#4427251)
I just saw 42, a couple of weeks into its run. Like Andy, I think it's both enjoyable and missable. It very greatly simplifies the story, but there's no way to make a 2-hour movie without doing that. It's mostly Hollywood hokum with a hero and tribulations and a happy ending. There are small inaccuracies (starting with a Negro League game where there are apparently four umpires; I doubt any such games had four), but I'm not a small-inaccuracy sleuth; the film is consistent on its own terms. At times the filmmakers tried to tone down the hokum of the real story: Rickey has a chance to tell about his Ohio Wesleyan catcher Charles Thomas trying to wash the color off his hands, but Harrison Ford talks in generalities instead, as if Brian Helgeland figured to let Rickey tell his actual anecdote was too hokey (let's not forget that the participants in the story, especially Rickey but even Robinson when it came to starring in his own biopic, could play up the hokum themselves).

Unlike SoSH U, I thought the tunnel scene was well-done. Yes, it's corny, but it was well-framed by the light at the end of the tunnel, and it recalled a similar scene (IIRC) in Fear Strikes Out. It was not plausible, but it was OK as playwriting. I liked the Pee-Wee-arm-around-Jackie scene.

My favorite performance was Max Gail (Wojciehowicz!) as Burt Shotton. Except he had about a scene and a half and the movie forgot about him. That was one flaw, for me: too many minor characters who appeared and disappeared. But they didn't leave loose ends; they were just sort of randomly used where relevant. Maybe that's not a flaw; maybe that's just realistic.
   175. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 28, 2013 at 01:23 AM (#4427304)
That was one flaw, for me: too many minor characters who appeared and disappeared. But they didn't leave loose ends; they were just sort of randomly used where relevant. Maybe that's not a flaw; maybe that's just realistic.


Probably depends on how they're used. Take Moneyball. There's a scene where Beane fires his scouting director then has a brief exchange with a character who otherwise only appears in the background. It goes something like this:

Beane: X, did you ever play ball?
X: Tee ball, in little league...
Beane: Good. You're the new scouting director.

The character is there just to (over)emphasize how little emphasis Beane is putting on traditional scouting, and to show you how much contempt the movie wants you to believe Beane had for conventional scouts. There wouldn't have been any purpose in giving X some kind of back story or other development or even another line of dialogue. To me that's an acceptable use of a peripheral character.
   176. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: April 28, 2013 at 10:14 AM (#4427331)
It's always a treat to read YR's boxing posts.
   177. Steve Treder Posted: April 28, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4427372)
My favorite performance was Max Gail (Wojciehowicz!) as Burt Shotton. Except he had about a scene and a half and the movie forgot about him.

Yeah, that was weird. I have to believe there was some subsequent scene or two involving him that ended up on the cutting room floor.
   178. Greg K Posted: April 28, 2013 at 01:08 PM (#4427374)
Not sure if this should be in the movie thread or the politics thread, but I just discovered Patton Oswalt's philibuster on the plot of Star Wars Episode 7 on an episode of Parks and Recreation.

It is truly a tour de force.
Link
   179. BDC Posted: April 28, 2013 at 02:07 PM (#4427409)
From now on, instead of smoking the objective pipe, I intend to seize the reality gem.
   180. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: April 28, 2013 at 05:30 PM (#4427585)
As for an Ali movie, I'd give serious thought to focusing on his time in prison, assuming it was interesting. I know a fair bit about his career, but I've heard literally nothing about what his time inside was actually like.


Muhammad Ali never went to jail or prison.
   181. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 28, 2013 at 05:39 PM (#4427588)
Which is why, of course, I'd never heard anything about it.

This kind of thing and regularly losing track of my car keys makes me glad for Google. Now, if I could just put a GPS tracker on my keys...
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