Movie Review: The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
“The Jackie Robinson Story”is a cheap production filled with movie clichés. The young black boy who happens upon an error-prone group of white kids playing ball; he demonstrates what he can do bare-handed, and, as a reward, the white coach gives him a beat-up old glove. This glove follows him through his life. His brother comments upon it: “You always have that glove with you, Jackie.” Baseball is presented as Jackie's favorite sport, when, in reality, among the college sports he played, it was probably his least-favorite. Jackie himself, played by Jackie himself, is presented as dutiful son to a mammy-type (Louise Beavers), sexless suitor to a pretty, light-skinned girl (Ruby Dee), and almost without personality on the ballfield.
At only one point do you get the idea of the volcano simmering beneath the polite facade: When Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Minor Watson) gets in Jackie's face about what kind of abuse he'll face in the Majors; the abuse he'll have to take in order to make it in the Majors. The rest of the film is dreary, long-distance baseball shots, and heavy-handed back-patting pronouncements about equal opportunity. “The Jackie Robinson Story” is supposed to enlighten us and it does. It makes us realize how far we've come by showing us the inanities that passed for racial enlightenment in 1950.
-- November 22, 1995