Here’s a happy box office story that no one expected. Brian Helgeland’s Jackie Robinson biopic “42” has hit a grand slam home run in its opening weekend. The $38 million movie took in $9.1 million on Friday night. My guess is word of mouth will build, and the weekend tally could be a swell $27 million. Not bad considering the film has not had a ton of publicity. And the star is completely unknown, although Harrison Ford lends the movie some Hollywood power.
For years Spike Lee tried to make a Jackie Robinson movie, but it never got off the ground. I’ve no doubt he’s pleased to see this one is a success because now new generations will know what the Robinsons went through as Jackie broke the color barrier and changed professional sports forever.
One story that I don’t think is in the film–I’m seeing it tonight: when the Robinsons came to New York, Rachel Robinson could not find a place for her family to stay. No one would rent to them or take them in. It was Carly Simon’s mother, Andrea, who first put them up in the Simon home in Stamford, Connecticut, and then found them a home of their own. Carly and her siblings Peter, Joanna, and Lucy remain close to the Robinsons to this day. I’m sure Carly will write about it in her upcoming memoir.
Ironic for Warner Bros, which has had trouble with big budget blockbusters like “Jack the Giant Killer” and “Burt Wonderstone.” But they were just bad, soulless offerings. Now this little warm hearted film is going to their sleeper hit. Lovely.