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“42” the Jackie Robinson saga, is a brilliant, straightforward telling story

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When Warner Bros. “42″ hits screens April 12, the Jackie Robinson saga will slap moviegoers with a fresh take on just how accepted racism was in the U.S. back in 1947, when Robinson broke the color barrier as the first African American player admitted into Major League Baseball. That’s the word from Alan Tudyk, who plays Robinson tormentor Ben Chapman in the Brian Helgeland film that stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, and Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey.

“It’s a very, very good telling of the story, starting with the amazing script Brian wrote,” notes the “Suburgatory” and “Firefly” actor. “He’s obviously a proven writer — ‘L.A. Confidential,’ ‘Mystic River’ and so many things. This is a brilliant, straightforward telling of this story. People who know the history and the trivia of this time are going to like it because it’s an accurate portrayal. A lot of the quotes known from this story are in the movie.

“I certainly wasn’t aware of the extent of the abuse Jackie had to take and how different the country was,” Tudyk admits. “Racism was very openly accepted as a form of humor — blackface, things like that. In that atmosphere, the things that were considered offensive are just completely outrageous. To my ears and my eyes in 2013, it was amazing, what he had to put up with and how he had to meet all the threats against him. He couldn’t react.”

Tudyk’s character, outfielder-turned-Phillies Manager Ben Chapman, was among the biggest thorns in Robinson’s side — opposing integration and instructing his players to bean him with the ball at every good opportunity.

“He goes out on the field and calls Jackie every name in the book. Then he catches grief for it from the press and gets called out for being a racist. Then, in an effort to save face, he asks Jackie — or, that is, he tells Jackie — that he wants to take a publicity picture with him out on the field before they play the next time. So Jackie agrees to go out and take pictures with this guy, who has been such an ass to him. He’s the bigger man. And then, even when he goes out on the field to do this favor for him, Ben Chapman won’t shake his hand! They’re like, ‘Shake his hand.’ And he’s like, ‘I’m not touching his hand.’ There’s a famous picture of the two of them that’s recreated in the movie, when Jackie says, ‘Here, we’ll just both hold this bat so you won’t have to touch my skin.’ That picture — you can find it anywhere.”

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