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The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson (1990)

Unrated | | Biography, Drama | TV Movie 15 October 1990
A film about the early life of the baseball star in the army and in particular his court-martial for insubordination regarding segregation.

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(story), (story) | 4 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Jackie's mother
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Rachel
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Scout Ed Higgins
Don Hood ...
Maj. Foley
Howard French ...
Sgt. McEllroy
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Storyline

The early life of the future baseball star is told here. Jackie Robinson was a young college student and athlete who learned never to take racist attacks lying down. This eventually gets him into trouble when he is drafted in World War II and assigned to a Texas training camp deep in the racist south. The film climaxes when Jackie Robinson must face a court-martial for insubordination when he refused to go to the back of the bus when the white bus driver ordered him, knowing that he was in his rights to do so. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@execulink.com>

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Genres:

Biography | Drama

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Unrated | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

15 October 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Corte Marcial  »

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1.33 : 1
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A Soldier's Story is loosely based on This Story See more »

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Part of the Robinson saga few know about
29 August 1999 | by (Hawaii) – See all my reviews

Before Jack Roosevelt Robinson made his historical impact as the first African-American to break the color line in Major League Baseball, he made an impact on the United States Army. This made-for-television movie (TNT), while not historically accurate in every minute detail, is an important document and an excellent history lesson.

While a four-sport star at UCLA (baseball, football, basketball and track), Robinson was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve during WWII. He found and fought racial discrimination at every turn. With the help of an influential fellow soldier, Joe Louis, Robinson became an officer over the objections of the white power structure at Camp Riley (now Ft. Riley), Kansas. He then fought to get equal PX privileges for black soldiers. Branded a troublemaker and sent to Camp Hood (now Ft. Hood), Texas, he was court-martialed on trumped-up charges of insubordination after refusing the order of a civilian bus driver to sit at the back of an Army bus. He won his case, resigned his commission, and joined the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League (see movie "Soul of the Game" for details), where he played with legendary hurler/baseball showman Satchel Paige.

Andre Braugher was stellar as Robinson. Kasi Lemmons was an excellent physical match as Robinson's future wife, Rachel. Bruce Dern turned in a stunning performance as "Scout Ed Higgins" (in actuality Dodgers scout Clyde Sukeforth) a bigot who nonetheless appreciated Robinson's skills, and Stan Shaw was quite believable as legendary heavyweight champion Joe Louis. J.A. Preston, a marvelous character actor with an unforgettable voice and presence, is the narrator and Robinson's champion as real-life sportswriter Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier. Noble Willingham had a notable cameo as a two-faced colonel. But the most brilliant bit of casting was the venerable Ruby Dee as Robinson's mother. Forty years earlier in "The Jackie Robinson Story" (1950), a forgettable piece of pablum in which Robinson portrayed himself, Dee transcended an awful film with a bravura performance as wife Rachel Robinson.

There were a couple of unbelievable scenes. One centered on how Robinson and Louis allegedly met--according to the film, an embittered Robinson was about to blindly throw a punch at Louis, who stopped him short by saying, "I don't think I'm the man you want to hit." Also, it strains the credibility to portray Higgins/Sukeforth and Joe Louis as waiting outside the military courtroom for the outcome of the court martial, although it is plausible that Smith was there on assignment for the Courier. The film did make the point that Robinson had a fiery temper and bristled at the notion of racial injustice, something that he was forced to downplay during his first few years in the big leagues.

All in all, it was a good film, bordering on excellent, and more historically accurate than most docudramas, showing that there was precedent for Rosa Parks' more celebrated transit troubles, and that Jackie Robinson was a civil rights pioneer before stepping foot on a professional baseball diamond.


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