Classic Video Showplace

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “The Jackie Robinson Story”

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances. 

For as great a baseball player and tremendous all-around athlete as he was, Jackie Robinson more than held his own on the silver screen portraying himself in the classic film, “The Jackie Robinson Story

Robinson became the first African-American to break the color barrier by playing professional baseball as a second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

The movie, filmed and released during the peak of his baseball career in 1950, outlined his life and focused on his struggles against racial prejudices and social injustices he faced to first play…and then excel…as a major league baseball player.

The racism Robinson endured started well before his professional playing days.  After graduating from college he was denied an opportunity to be a baseball coach, before he was even offered his first pro baseball contract. The film also connects with his education, home life and his tour of duty fighting for the United States Army in World War II.

Some of the best moments of this film are the inspirational messages he receives throughout his life, from various sources and from people of different races and economic levels.  One of the best speeches comes from Robinson himself when he delivers a message to the House of Representatives reflecting on his struggles for equality.  He also humbly addresses the inequalities of baseball, eloquently telling of its incredible prejudices and of the malicious acts he had to endure – even initially from within his own clubhouse.

The courage and class that Jackie shows throughout all these ordeals made the emotional impact of the scenes even more real and palatable for viewers to get a sense of what he went through.  The impact of these scenes hits home even more when you realize that it was Robinson himself reliving (and acting through) these real life events.

In 2006, the film was recognized by the American Film Institute’s top 100 films in the “100 Cheers” category.

“The Jackie Robinson Story” also features equally emotional and courageous scenes from Ruby Dee, playing the role of Jackie’s wife, Rae, along with stellar performances by Louise Beavers (portraying Jackie’s mother) and veteran character actor Minor Watson, who signed Robinson to his professional baseball contract.

Alfred E. Green, who was no stranger to great biopic films, also did a credible job mixing in realistic baseball scenes while also framing and highlighting the key personal moments and private conversations in the movie that were so integral in the retelling of Jackie’s journey.

Years later, the movie “42” took a more modern view of Robinson’s tremendous accomplishments and epic struggles.  Although that, too, is a great film, both baseball supporters and non-athletic fans alike really must see the original version of Robinson’s life story, featuring the man who transcended sports in multiple ways, complete with his brilliant acting performance in his own film. 

You can see “The Jackie Robinson Story” this Thursday, August 13, at 9 am on RCN-TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.