The Jackie Robinson Story
Lobby card
Directed byAlfred E. Green
Written byArthur Mann
Lawrence Taylor
Produced byMort Briskin
William J Heineman (United Artists)
StarringJackie Robinson
Ruby Dee
Minor Watson
CinematographyErnest Laszlo
Edited byArthur H. Nadel
Music byHerschel Burke Gilbert
Jewel Pictures
Distributed byEagle-Lion Films
Release date
  • May 16, 1950 (1950-05-16) (United States)[1]
Running time
77 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Ruby Dee and Joel Fluellen (center)

The Jackie Robinson Story is a 1950 biographical film directed by Alfred E. Green (who had directed The Jolson Story, "one of the biggest hits of the 40s")[4] and starring Jackie Robinson as himself. The film focuses on Robinson's struggle with the abuse of bigots as he becomes the first African-American Major League Baseball player of the modern era. The film is in part based on Robinson's own autobiography, My Own Story.[5]

The film is among the list of films in the public domain in the United States.[6] However a new copyrighted "restored and in color" version was released in conjunction with the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 2008.


The Jackie Robinson Story
Screenplay cover
Photo from 1950 Lobby card promoting The Jackie Robinson Story, showing Jackie Robinson (as himself)

The film begins with Robinson as a boy. He is given a worn-out baseball glove by a stranger impressed by his fielding skills. As a young man, he becomes a multi-sport star at UCLA, but as he nears graduation, he worries about his future. His older brother Mack was also an outstanding college athlete and graduate, but the only job he could get was that of a lowly street cleaner.

When America enters World War II, Robinson is drafted, serving as an athletic director. Afterward, he plays baseball with a professional African-American team. However, the constant travel keeps him away from his college sweetheart.

Then one day, Brooklyn Dodgers scout Clyde Sukeforth invites him to meet Branch Rickey, president of the Major League Baseball team. At first, Robinson considers the offer to be a practical joke, as African Americans are not allowed to play in the segregated major leagues. When he is convinced that the opportunity is genuine, he and Rickey size each other up. After thinking over Rickey's warning about the hatred and abuse he would have to endure without being able to strike back, Robinson signs with the Dodgers' International League farm team, the Montreal Royals. Though he wants to delay marrying Rae to shield her, she insists on an immediate wedding so she can support her man in the trying times ahead.

Robinson leads the league in hitting in his first year, and despite the grave concerns expressed by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rickey goes ahead and promotes him to the Dodgers. Reviled at first by many of the fans and some of his own teammates, Robinson gets off to a shaky start, playing out of position at first base and going through a hitting slump, but then gradually wins people over with his talent and determination. The team goes on to win the pennant, with Robinson driving in the tying run and scoring the winning run in the deciding game.



Principal photography for the film took place in the off-season following his third season with the Brooklyn Dodgers.[2] Much of the film was shot at Gilmore Field, home of the PCL Hollywood Stars.


Even during its initial release—in the era of racial segregation—the film received critical praise and fared well at the box office.[7] The film was not as popular as originally thought but still profitable.[3]

According to Bosley Crowther, "What is surprising... in this new film... is the sincerity of the dramatization and the integrity of Mr. Robinson playing himself. Too often, in films of this nature about sports figures, fanciful or real, the sentiments are inflated and the heroics glorified. Here the simple story of Mr. Robinson's trail-blazing career is re-enacted with manifest fidelity and conspicuous dramatic restraint. And Mr. Robinson, doing that rare thing of playing himself in the picture's leading role, displays a calm assurance and composure that might be envied by many a Hollywood star."[1]

Colorized version

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On April 19, 2005, 20th Century Fox and Legend Films released a colorized version of the film, donating a portion of the proceeds to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a charity that benefits education for gifted students. Another official version, as seen on Amazon Prime Video, remains in release by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (whose sister company, United Artists, produced this film).

See also


  1. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley (May 17, 1950). "Jackie Robinson Story, With Baseball Star Playing Himself, Is Shown of Astor Theatre". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-04-10. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  2. ^ a b Steinberg, Jay. "The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  3. ^ a b "'Robinson' Due to Pay off backers". Variety.
  4. ^ Corliss, Richard (February 4, 2008). "The Jackie Robinson Story". Top 25 Important Movies On Race. Time. Retrieved 2014-04-06.
  5. ^ Ralph Carhart. "Not an Easy Tale to Tell: Jackie Robinson on Stage and Screen". Jackie Robinson: Perspectives on 42. Society for American Baseball Research.
  6. ^ Harris, Aisha (11 April 2013). "When Jackie Robinson Played Himself". Slate. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Lot #985: 1950 "The Jackie Robinson Story" Lobby Cards Complete Set (8)". March 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-03-18. Retrieved 2014-04-06. Baseball biopics, in general, are harshly panned by the critics, and lightly ridiculed by the customers. The 1950 release of "The Jackie Robinson Story," on the other hand, met a measure of critical approval, and it fared well at the box office.