He’s been in space, in the desert and aboard Air Force One.
By JAMES A. FUSSELL
The Kansas City Star
Now Harrison Ford is coming to Kansas City. In April, the versatile 70-year-old actor will lend his fame to a benefit showing of his upcoming Jackie Robinson movie, “42.”
“One of Hollywood’s biggest stars is coming to town to help open what we think is going to be a blockbuster movie,” Mayor Sly James announced Wednesday at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
The film, which opens nationwide April 12, will be shown April 11 at the AMC Barrywoods theater as a benefit for the museum and the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation.
Also attending will be Robinson’s son, David; Brian Helgeland, who wrote and directed “42”; and Andre Holland, who plays sportswriter Wendell Smith.
In the film, Ford plays legendary Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, who recruited Robinson, breaking the major leagues’ color barrier in 1947. Before joining the majors as No. 42 with the Dodgers, Robinson (played by newcomer Chadwick Boseman) wore No. 5 for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues in 1945.
“I am extremely thrilled that the backdrop for this great story is Kansas City,” James said. “The ‘42’ film would not be coming alive but for the fact that the Negro Leagues baseball league existed and started right here in Kansas City and that the Monarchs existed right here in Kansas City.”
While playing for the Dodgers, instead of reacting to racism, Robinson let his talent do the talking, ultimately winning over fans and teammates, silencing critics and blazing a trail for others to follow.
“We make the bold assertion here at the Negro Leagues Museum that Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier wasn’t just a part of the civil rights movement,” said Negro Leagues museum president Bob Kendrick. “It actually signaled the beginning of … the civil rights movement.
“Before Brown vs. Board. Before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as the late, great Buck O’Neil said, was only a sophomore at Morehouse College when Robinson signed that contract. … So for all intents and purposes, this is what started all the social progress. Baseball.”
Added Kendrick: “This is a story that should have been told years ago.”
While Robinson wasn’t the best player in the Negro Leagues, or even on the Monarchs, Kendrick said, “he was the right man to be first. And this film creates an opportunity for us to be reminded of just how courageous this man was. Because when Jackie went up to the plate, he was knocked down continuously. When he slid into second base, he’d often come up to find the opposition had spit on him. They did everything imaginable to break Jackie, but Jackie would not break.”
Tom Butch, executive vice president of Waddell & Reed — one of two primary sponsors of the preview screenings along with AMC Theatres — described the event as “a real coup for Kansas City.”
“This certainly provides fitting recognition of our important place in the life and the career of Jackie Robinson, arguably the most groundbreaking athlete in history, whose professional career started just blocks from this facility,” he said at the museum.
Tickets to the special screenings of the PG-13 drama are available at 42kansascity.com through April 9 at varying price levels: $42 (includes free concessions and a museum membership), $72 (also includes VIP seating and a Q&A after the show led by former Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski) and VIP packages of $1,000 to $25,000, which also include a reception with Ford
The star will appear on the red carpet before the event. He will also introduce the film in some, perhaps all, of the theater auditoriums where “42” will be shown (organizers haven’t finalized whether those will include the $42 level).
To reach James A. Fussell, call 816-234-4460 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.