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The Jackie Robinson Story
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The Jackie Robinson Story More at IMDbPro »

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Inspirational B-Movie does the job

Author: Mark_McD from United States
21 January 2003

If the obviously affable Robinson doesn't come across as a "good" actor, it might be more the fault of the production than himself. Though it's an important movie about a great sports pioneer, it has too many marks of a B-movie production. Too much exposition by characters who should have more interesting stories (wouldn't you want to know more about the USC athletic director who said the only color he cares about is "blue and gold?" Also, Louise Beavers gave a very subdued performance considering it was one of her few roles where she wasn't playing someone's maid. Other hallmarks of the B production were about two minutes of running used for the stock footage of calendar leaves falling to mark the passage of time, the old "spinning headlines" of newspapers with the same articles beneath, the fact that Jackie's baseball scenes were shot at just two ballparks (I'm not even sure his Dodgers scenes were shot at Ebbets Field; the field doesn't quite match the long shots of Ebbets) and the "flashback voices" that ran through Jackie's head when he was set to fight with some white hecklers. This film could also be considered as a product of the McCarthy era in which it was made. It did ignore Jackie's problems in the Army (because it's "un-American" to criticize the military) and ends with Jackie's flag-waving radio address before Congress. Branch Rickey, who in real life did spend several years trying to get pro baseball to desegregate, has a lot of "let's behave like real Americans" dialogue, but tempered with his admission to Jackie that he scouted him because we wants the Dodgers to win a pennant. Despite my quibbles, I think this is an important movie and I'm glad it's around for us to see. I am also torn between feeling that it might be better remembered had it not been a small studio picture, and the possibility that a major studio would have completely glossed over the prejudice portrayed in the film. <i>Note: Jackie's Dodger uniform number, 42, had been officially retired by every team in Major League Baseball. "42" is also the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, as explained in "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Coincidence? I think not.

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

The Jackie Robinson/Branch Rickey Story

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
21 July 2005

After Jackie Robinson had his career year in 1949(batting champion and National League Most Valuable Player, he was apparently talked into appearing in this cheaply made autobiographical story by Dodger President Branch Rickey. According to a recent biography of Robinson the film was made in California in the early months of 1950 and rushed into movie houses in time for the 1950 baseball season.

Jackie Robinson was one of the most gifted athletes of the last century. He could easily have had a career in football, track, or basketball. But acting was not one of the skills God blessed him with. The poor man looks nervous and apprehensive and wondering what he was doing there.

The movie touches on a few highlights of his early life, skipping over his military career which was very important because he felt the sting of racism there and was courtmartialed in the army, but acquitted. I won't go into that story, a television movie was made of it.

There's no real explanation of just WHY it was Robinson who Branch Rickey selected to integrate the Brooklyn Dodgers and major league baseball. The skimpy screen play does concentrate on Rickey and his role in bringing integration to baseball. That's not surprising since the screenplay was authored by Arthur Mann who was Rickey's own publicist. Later on Mann wrote a hagiography of Rickey.

Branch Rickey was a complex man himself and not quite the pure knight the film makes him out to be although he does deserve a lot of credit. Rickey was not above a lot of sanctimonious moralizing in his life and actor Minor Watson caught some of that aspect of him. A book and/or movie should be done about that man as well.

Ruby Dee got her first real notice on the screen in this film as Rachel Robinson, Jackie's wife. There's was one of the great love stories of the last century, but you'd never know it. Ms. Dee said that she had little to go on in creating the character of Rachel for the screen, but that after meeting her when the shooting was well over halfway done, she wished she had met her before. Her interpretation of the dutiful wife would have been a lot different.

In fact one of the reasons that Rickey did choose Robinson as opposed to other black athletes was that Robinson was a very religious man who was very much in love with his wife. No stories about him running around and nightclubbing would occur to ruin Rickey's great experiment.

In fact other than the Robinson family and Branch Rickey the only other real characters in the story are Dodger coach and scout Clyde Sukeforth and Montreal Royal Manager Clay Hopper. No mention at all of any of Jackie's famous teammates. Another example of the skimpiness of the screenplay.

Ruby Dee said that Robinson was a very nice man who felt out of place in the film. Maybe one day a good film about Robinson the ballplayer and civil rights activist will be made. I can see Denzel Washington in the part.

Having seen the film 42 I can recommend that one as a far better telling of The Jackie Robinson Story.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Sometimes Athletes Can Be True Heroes.

Author: tfrizzell from United States
10 July 2004

A wonderful film that acts as a homage to Jackie Robinson (played by himself). The early life of the first black Major League baseball player is shown in a way that makes the picture wholesome and appropriate for all audiences. Ruby Dee is perfect as Robinson's loving wife who stands behind her husband when it seems that no one else will. "The Jackie Robinson Story" was made in 1950 so the social issues and the intense prejudices that Robinson faced are only given a minute glimpse. I have been wanting a movie to be made that goes into greater detail about this individual's life as Robinson was just as important to Civil Rights as people who fought vehemently for equality in the 1960s. The integration of baseball is something that most never believed would happen before 1947 and many forget just how important a piece of American history that is. Not the best film ever made, in fact it is not even great for its time period. I still like and respect the production for what it is though. 4 stars out of 5.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Biopic Deserves More Attention

Author: jonathon_naylor from Manitoba, Canada
22 October 2006

THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY is a slightly formulaic, but nonetheless solid, biopic that really deserves more attention that it receives. Robinson stars as himself, the first African American to break through pro baseball's color barrier. It's by no means an easy task as he confronts a society that is far from united in wanting to see this groundbreaking endeavor succeed.

The film is to be credited for not shying away from the racial tension of the time. Robinson endures racial slurs, unyielding boos, the indignity of sitting at the back of the bus, and so on. It's both shocking and infuriating to be reminded of how bigoted and unreasonable society was just a few decades ago. In many ways Robinson's is a heartbreaking story, even though we know it has a happy ending.

Robinson won't be mistaken for an Academy Award winner, but his performance is decent. He proves to be a highly likable screen presence, portraying the sort of gentleman that by many accounts he was in real life. Some of his supporting cast is stiff, but by and large the performances work.

Surely this important story will again one day be given the big screen treatment. And whoever gets behind the camera for that effort will have a solid foundation to which to refer in THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Historic baseball film

Author: lastliberal from United States
22 March 2007

Sure, many can criticize this film for what it didn't show, but it's a movie, not a mini-series. So, they had to gloss over the fact that his brother Mack (Joel Fluellen), with a college education and an Olympic medal was a milkman; didn't touch on the Army at all; and left out Satchel Paige.

What was worth watching was Robinson'e play for UCLA and branch Rickey's (Minor Watson) valiant efforts to get him into major league baseball. It is no secret that I love watching baseball movies From Fever Pitch to The Natural to "A League of their own;" I'll watch baseball movies over baseball games. This was a good one. Robinson did a very good acting job playing himself. Of course, as Ringo Starr said, "All I have to do is smile and act naturally." Well, he did much more that that.

So, head on over to the Internet Archive and check it our:

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Reasonably close to the facts AND it actually stars Jackie himself in the title role!

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
19 February 2012

Yikes--the print for this public domain flick is a mess! Yes, it's scratchy, a bit blurry and the sound isn't great, but it's also a great chance to see Jackie Robinson himself play in this bio-pic.

This biography of Jackie Robinson has sanitized his life just a bit by the filmmakers. However, despite a few omissions here and there, the film is a decent biography--a billion times better and more truthful than the awful bio-pic on Babe Ruth completed just two years earlier. When I say sanitized, I mean some parts of Jackie's life are omitted because they didn't portray the image some folks wanted to give in the film. So, Jackie's military history is pretty much ignored--even though he dealt with A LOT of racism and a court-martial that was motivated by the color of his skin and Jackie's unwillingness to be treated like dirt. I think including it would have made for a better film, as he showed a lot of character but it just didn't fit into the 'turn the other cheek' portrayal in the film. Plus, perhaps it was too big a topic to include in this relatively short film. Overall, a decent film and it was nice to see that Robinson wasn't at all bad as an actor! Well worth seeing and a nice bit of Americana.

Some things of note in the film:

Jimmie Dodd plays a minor role as a scout for UCLA. Dodd later went on to be the host of the popular kids show, "The Mickey Mouse Show".

Robinson was a star in college in basketball, baseball, track AND football. The film talked about all but his track prowess.

The films shows such troubles encountered by black ballplayers as not being able to eat in restaurants, being booed just for being black and outright hostility.

The use of 'boy' and the almighty N-word might offend many today but it DID add realism to the movie. I'd hate to see political correctness sanitize race films too much.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

"In baseball, it's not who or what you are, but can you play the game".

Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
18 September 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Made only a few years after Jackie Robinson joined the Major Leagues, this film is a truly inspirational story of the first man who broke baseball's color barrier, paving the way for future stars like Mays, Aaron, Clemente and the rest. Along the way, even Robinson had to be convinced that a black player would ever get the chance - "Baseball's one sport that'll never let me in". To his credit, executive Branch Rickey stayed true to his principles in signing Robinson, and a number of scenes in the picture spotlight Rickey (Minor Watson) waxing philosophically about fair play and sportsmanship, and a man's right to make a living no matter what his color. The best was the way he dressed down a handful of players who presented a petition against playing with Robinson, offering one of them an exit strategy in case he persisted.

Though the film uses a fairly broad brush to illustrate the prejudice shown against Robinson, most of the examples seem fairly mild given the era. The terms 'shine' and 'nigger' are used, but sparingly, and one of the more graphic examples was the dimwit who compared Robinson to a black cat. The situations for the most part didn't appear life threatening, but I'm sure there must have been more serious incidents directed against the ball player during his early career.

The movie is certainly no award winner, and Robinson exhibits a surprising lack of charisma portraying himself. No doubt he was self conscious about the task at hand. A number of scenes took on a stagy look, like the one where Jackie steals second base and gets into a tiff with the opposing team's player. We're reminded of the film's low budget restrictions when the same fans are shown in the stands for different games, sitting in the exact same seats. All in all though, the picture is a few notches better than "The Joe Louis Story" that came out three years later.

One thing I'll note with some degree of interest, something I watch for in early pictures like this, are the nostalgic nuggets of a time gone by. Keep an eye on the advertising billboards in center field during one of the Montreal Royals games; you'll see ads for Admiral TV, White Rock beverages, Auto-Lite, and Wildroot Hair Cream Oil. A later view (presumably from the same stadium) adds a couple more for Rayve Home Permanent and Coca-Cola.

What I'd really like to see is a modern day version of the Jackie Robinson story that does a more thorough job of his college and military years, with a lot better look at his International League and Dodgers career. This picture for example, didn't mention any of his teammates by name (except that short Branch Rickey scene in his office), nor any of the opposition that would have come up against him and his team. There was that one Montreal player Shorty (Ben Lessy), but it looked like he was thrown in for comic relief and didn't really seem necessary.

Closing on a trivia note, does anyone recall the name of the second black Major League player? It was Larry Doby, signed by the Cleveland Indians only eleven weeks after Robinson, making him the first in the American League.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Robinson is the movie

Author: dhartzell from New York, New York
19 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While Jackie Robinson was never in danger of Oscar consideration for this performance as himself, within the confines of a low-budget movie with a creaky script he does a creditable job.

And perhaps more to the point, his charisma is palpable ... and almost makes it obvious why Rickey decided he was the man to run the gauntlet in 1947. He's just so damned likable!

Also: I have to say that the heart of the movie -- and I don't think *any* actor could have done a better job here -- is the sequence where Robinson shows up for his first practice with the Montreal Royals. He tries to join a couple of pepper games without success and, on his third try, grows tired of being ignored and calls for a fellow player to throw him the ball. Cut to a medium close up of Robinson as he pounds his mitt and, with a poignant look of anxiety, expectation, and defiance, holds it up, asking for the throw.

Nearly as good is the smile that crosses Robinson's face when the player with the ball (who gets his own reverse shot, looking at his white teammates skeptically as if to say, "Should I throw to this {your racial epithet here}?") finally tosses it to him. That smile and Robinson's gesture with his glove on catching the ball -- the kind major league infielders usually reserve for acknowledging someone's sparkling play --says more than any dialog could. And it feels unscripted in its natural tension and release. Brilliant!

I doubt Robinson needed *any* coaching to do that scene. And I suspect nobody then or now could have done it better.

Robinson is the movie. Most everything else, with the possible exception of the young Ruby Dee's serviceable (if undemanding) performance as Robinson's wife, is window dressing.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Done on the cheap, but good nonetheless

Author: thepoetbandit from Humboldt County, Calif.
24 June 2005

This has to be one of the most cheaply made movies I have ever seen. But it is a good movie anyway, well worth a few bucks to rent and an hour and fifteen minutes of couch time. Jackie Robinson does a decent job as an actor. Hollywood should remake this film because today it can be told with more truth than back in 1950. A remake would be able to graphically detail just what Robinson had to put up with to break the color barrier in baseball. The only thing that really bothered me about this film is that it made a hero out of Branch Rickey. Maybe Rickey deserves such status for seeing it through with Robinson, but I don't think his motives were as altruistic as portrayed in this movie.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

That's the real Jackie

Author: jlprman from United States
14 October 2012

I grew up at a time after Jackie played so I couldn't experience Jackie enough because he died before his time, This film is a chance to see and hear a very important man. This film makes the man more real to me. It's not so much for entertainment as it is for posterity. How many other films will you find with the real Jackie Robinson in it? The quality of the film is secondary to having a visual account of such an important man. The baseball sequences are reenacted but that is Jackie swinging at the ball and running the bases. I could care less if the film was good or not. Direction, editing, even acting are of little consequence. For the record, it's not great but it's okay.

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