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Urban Sports Legends [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

The Joe Louis Story
Coley Wallace plays the title role in The Joe Louis Story. Told in flashback, the film recounts the pugilistic career of "the Brown Bomber" from the early 1930s to his misguided comeback attempt opposite Rocky Marciano in 1951. The film's high point is Louis' defeat of Germany's Max Schmeling; its low point (dramatically, not quality-wise) is the breakup of Louis's marriage. Evidently for legal reasons, most of the character names in the film are fictional. Many of the fight scenes are culled from footage of the real Louis in action. Though the "race" angle in The Joe Louis Story is downplayed, Louis is treated on an equal par with the white characters, which resulted in the film being banned in certain Southern regions back in 1953. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

It's Good to Be Alive
For his TV-movie directorial debut, Michael Landon selected the autobiography of baseball-great Roy Campanella. It's Good to Be Alive begins when Campanella (Paul Winfield) is nearly killed in a car accident on January 26, 1958. He survives, but his fifth cervical vertebra has been fractured, meaning that he will be paralyzed for the rest of his life. Thanks to months of tireless efforts by physical-therapist Sam Brockington (Louis Gossett Jr.), Campanella is able to move about a bit, though he remains bitter about his condition. Campanella's accident causes a deeper rift in his already tottering marriage to his second wife Ruthie (Ruby Dee), and alienates his son David (Ty Henderson), who has been raised on his father's "never say die" philosophy. Realizing that by pitying himself he is letting his family down, Campanella sincerely adopts a more optimistic, upbeat outlook on life. Eventually, the wheelchair-bound Campanella accepts an offer to coach the LA Dodgers during spring training. In a finale reminiscent of Pride of the Yankees, Roy Campanella tearfully declares to an SRO audience at Los Angeles Coliseum that "It's good to be alive." When this 90-minute film first aired on February 22, 1974, it was introduced by the real-life Roy Campanella and his family (including his third wife Roxie). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Jackie Robinson Story
Despite its lack of production values and box-office "names," The Jackie Robinson Story is one of the best and most convincing baseball biopics ever filmed. Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Jackie Robinson plays himself, and quite well indeed. The film traces Robinson's career from his college days, when he excelled as a track star at Pasadena College and as UCLA's All-Sports record holder. Upon his graduation, Robinson tries to get a coaching job, but this is the 1940s, and most doors are closed to black athletes. After serving in the army, Robinson plays with the Negro Baseball League, where his uncanny skills attract the attention of Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Anxious to break down the "color line" that exists in major-league baseball, Robinson is chosen in 1946 to play for the Brooklyn farm team in Montreal. In a harrowing sequence, Rickey lets Robinson know what he's in for by bombarding him with insults and racial slurs. The manager is merely testing Robinson's ability to withstand the pressure: he wants a black ballplayer "with guts enough not to fight back." Robinson agrees to ignore all racial epithets for the first two years of his Brooklyn contract. Despite the unabashed hatred to which he is subjected during his year with Montreal, Robinson steadfastly continues to turn the other cheek, and in 1947 he graduates to the Dodgers lineup. After a slow start, Robinson justifies the faith put in him by Rickey. The Dodgers win the pennant race, and slowly but surely the ban on black players vanishes in the big leagues. Though a model of restraint by 1990s standards, The Jackie Robinson Story is surprisingly frank in its detailing of the racial tensions of its own era. It falters only in a couple of silly vignettes involving comic-relief ballplayer Ben Lessey. The cast is uniformly fine, including Louise Beavers as Robinson's mother, Ruby Dee as his wife Rae (Dee would later play Robinson's mother in the 1990 TV movie The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson), Joel Fluellen as his brother Mac, Minor Watson as Branch Rickey, and best of all, Richard Lane as Montreal manager Clay Hopper. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Image coming soon
    Coley Wallace - Joe Louis
  • Paul Stewart
    Paul Stewart - Tad McGeehan
  • Hilda Simms
    Hilda Simms - Marva Louis
  • James Edwards
    James Edwards - Chappie Blackburn
  • John Marley
    John Marley - Mannie Seamon
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