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[Detail] Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese

Screenwriting

Biographical films often take liberties with historical events to enhance their dramatic effect.  An excerpt from the screenplay of the The Jackie Robinson Storyfeaturing the first interview between Branch Rickey (played by Minor Watson) and Jackie Robinson (played by himself) provides an opportunity to discuss how real life is depicted in the movies. Consider the following scene and the questions below:

RICKEY: Suppose I'm a player . . . in the heat of an important game. Suppose I collide with you at 2nd base. When I get up I say, "You dirty, black so-and-so." What'd you do?

JACKIE: (stops and thinks for a moment, then) Mr. Rickey, do you want a ball player who is afraid to fight back?

RICKEY: I want a ball player with guts enough not to fight back. You've got to do this job with base hits and stolen bases and fielding ground balls, Jackie. Nothing else. (whirls on him) Now, I'm playing against you in the World Series and I'm hot-headed. I want to win that game, so I go into you spikes first and you jab the ball in my ribs. The umpire says "Out." I flare -- all I see is your face -- that black face right on top of me. So I haul off and I punch you right in the cheek. What do you do?

Jackie stops, grinds his right fist into the palm of his left hand, as the camera moves in, then

JACKIE: (slowly) Mr. Rickey, I've got two cheeks.

  • What is the desired effect of this scene?
  • How do the stage directions contribute to meeting this goal?
  • How does the dialogue sound?  Is it always realistic?
  • How would you perform this scene if you were playing the role of either Robinson or Rickey? What elements of the script will help you decide how to perform the scene?
  • How else might this scene be staged?

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