The Boys of Summer
Colors and textures were equally important to costume designer Caroline Harris, who, like Hoover, spent months researching the styles of the day. "America in the 1940s was documented by many different photographers with many different viewpoints," she offers. "I gathered reams of images and covered my walls with them to immerse myself in the era."
She had Harrison Ford's wardrobe made especially for him, designing it to denote a man of Branch Rickey's formidable stature. Every suit was also carefully fitted to the actor's padded physique. Harris comments, "I particularly enjoy tailoring and so does Harrison Ford. He came in with such enthusiasm and knowledge of the character; he was so great to work with."
Harris designed Nicole Beharie's costumes, as Rachel Robinson, to reflect an elegant woman who always dressed impeccably but in a way that seemed effortless. "Jackie and Rachel Robinson were both fashionable dressers," she says, "and Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie wore the 1940s clothing exceptionally well."
Beharie shares, "I fell in love with the period, when the men were such gentlemen and all the women were poised and dressed like ladies. It was almost like being in another world, and then suddenly you go home and people are in skin-tight jeans and the music is blaring," she laughs.
Harris and her team were also responsible for making sure that everyone -- from the main characters to the passersby on the street to the hundreds of spectators crowding the stands -- was outfitted in '40s garb. Christopher Meloni recalls, "The costumes absolutely transported back me to that time -- the peanut and popcorn vendors in their white suits and little trays and everyone dressed to the nines to go out, even to a baseball game. It was beautiful."
"The ball players, especially, were riding high," Harris says. "They were into how they looked and liked to blow some cash on their wardrobe, so the period clothes some of them wear have a bit of flash to them."
Their choice of attire on the field, however, was far less personal. "The baseball aspect needed to be precise," Harris confirms. "The material was pre-washed before the uniforms were cut and assembled because the heat and humidity was sure to cause sweating and I needed to be sure the fabric wouldn't surprise us by shrinking or falling apart on the players."
In addition, the team names, logos and numbers were recreated to be exactly as they were at the time, down to making sure the correct number was on the back of each player at the corresponding times. For example, Ralph Branca went from 20 to 13 during the 1947 season, taking a teammate's number when that player was traded.
Major League Baseball was consulted on every detail and was an invaluable resource in ensuring authenticity on everything from the uniforms to the size of the bats used by particular players.
Harris also uncovered a collector who had a personal stash of vintage Dodger uniforms. She offers, "We checked the material and the colors and saw immediately that they were not in the same blue we refer to today as Dodger Blue. Back then, the team used a much darker blue so we had to make sure it was the appropriate shade for that decade."
Color is not the only thing that has changed over the years. The period equipment, particularly the old-style gloves, made it harder even on the most seasoned players. Lucas Black verifies, "I grew up playing baseball and it took me a while to get used to that glove. But it was amazing to learn more about the game and about this story. My love of baseball grew so much while making the movie."
The baseball uniforms of the times, including the caps, were predominantly made of wool, and, in the quest for verisimilitude, so were the uniforms in the film. That was unfortunate for the men on the field in the southern summer months. "The heat and humidity was tough on the guys having to wear wool," Helgeland nods. "But I couldn't allow myself to think about it too much because we would never have made it through the day. I had to say, 'Look, if you want to play baseball, you're gonna be out in the sun.' But they were all troupers and I appreciated that."
Despite the discomfort, however, the uniforms proved only to add to the positive experience for the actors. "Putting on the jersey with the number 42 was one of the most magical moments of the whole movie for me," Boseman affirms.
"When we put on the uniform, we became a team," Ryan Merriman declares. "We hung out together, sweat together, laughed together and got it done together."
Helgeland offers, "I knew going into this film that the relationship between Robinson and Rickey was important, and the relationship between Jackie and Rachel was essential, but I didn't realize how significant the relationship between him and his teammates would be. I read a quote about Jackie that said he changed the world but refused to let it change him -- he came into this situation and everyone around him would change...or not. That's what happens when he walks into the locker room in the movie. And I was surprised at the power that took on, which even I didn't expect it would have."
The filmmakers hope that the power of the story will resonate with moviegoers -- those who know about Jackie Robinson and those first learning about him.
Thomas Tull reflects, "I think '42' is not only fascinating in the way it captures a pivotal chapter in our history, but it's also an exciting and compelling story -- one that is both informative and entertaining."
"I believe the spirit of the country is that it is always struggling to be better, that it always wants to improve," Helgeland concludes, "and Jackie Robinson joining the Dodgers in 1947 was a kind of beachhead in that fight and in the civil rights movement. The fact that he integrated baseball didn't mean the issue went away, but it was a place to start to win the battle. Thanks to him and to those that followed, we've made incredible strides, but it's not won yet."
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