Pixel Tracker

Friday, February 15 , 2019, 3:32 pm | Light Rain 54º


Cinema in Focus: ‘42,’ the Jackie Robinson Story

An inspiring true story of the first black player to take the field for Major League Baseball

4 Stars — Inspiring

Racism has been horribly destructive in this “land of the free and home of the brave.” Although not unique to the United States, the very principles on which our nation is based makes racial and gender barriers all the more offensive. Though we believe that all of us are created equal, the implementation of that belief has been and continues to be a struggle.

One of those struggles was on the field of Major League Baseball. This struggle has been powerfully brought to the screen by one of the best screenwriters in recent times, Brian Helgeland. With the same sensitivity he brought to Mystic River, Man on Fire, L.A. Confidential and A Knight’s Tale, Helgeland both writes and directs 42, an inspiring film of vital importance to healing the racism once rampant in the United States.

Guided by their Christian beliefs and Methodist principles, the two leaders in the integration of the Major League were Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Wesley Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) and the first African-American to play at that level, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman).

Explaining to his disbelieving staff when he chose to draft Robinson, Rickey said, “He’s a Methodist, I’m a Methodist, God’s a Methodist!” As Free Methodists whose very name stands for our historic identification with the abolitionist movement of the 1860s, we resonate with the tongue-in-cheek truth that Rickey proclaimed. The very nature of our Methodist faith is to put into action our convictions that every person is worthy of love and respect — and that opportunity to show one’s self as capable by using one’s gifts is as much a part of baseball as it is of the church.

But putting that conviction into action is not easy. The power of the film is the documented strength, bravery and self-control that Robinson exhibited in the face of horrific racial slurs and actual physical threats. It also shows the integrity and tenacity with which Rickey not only was methodical in his creation of the farm system for the majors, but also in his strategic integration of the game for his Creator as well.

This combination of his love for the game and his love for God’s justice is expressed clearly near the end of the film in an excellently written dialogue of his purpose and motivation in bringing Robinson to the Dodgers.

Also walking this difficult road as the gates were opened for people of all races to participate in “America’s Pastime” was Robinson’s wife, Rachel (Nicole Beharie), and newspaper journalist Wendell Smith (Andre Holland). As his life partner, Rachel not only believed in Jackie but she also supported him in his game and in his life. Similarly, Smith was fighting his own racial barriers as he sat with his manual typewriter on his lap while seated among the fans because the press box would not allow a black man access to sit there with the white journalists.

In the end, it is up to every one of us to bring our convictions to the public arena, whether that of politics or baseball, because it is only as each of us bravely and methodically work together that we can change this world for the better.


» It is difficult with current sensitivities to go back into the past and see the disrespect expressed by the racism of our nation. But such a film as this reminds us where we once were and why we need to keep love and respect at the fore of our nation and lives. In what way are you a part of the healing of racism in our nation? What more can you do?

» The ability to be self-controlled in the face of horrific disrespect and racial slurs required a special grace. Where do you get your strength to rise above the evil you experience?

» The gruff manner with which Harrison Ford portrays Rickey allows us to see that love is not so much about sentimentality as it is honest and authentic respect. How have you come to understand the true nature of love that rises above a weak sentimentality?

Click here for an article on the life and faith of Robinson.

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.