The last time the story of Jackie Robinson — the first African-American major league baseball player to break the color barrier — was told on the big screen, it was 1950, and Robinson played himself. The delay was due largely to Robinson's widow Rachel holding onto her husband's life rights until she found a project she felt would do her husband's story justice. That film, 42, finally arrives in theaters this Friday, this time with newcomer Chadwick Boseman playing Robinson, and Harrison Ford as the man who hired him, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey.
Biopics are notoriously difficult to get right — human lives, even celebrated ones, rarely unfold with the kind of dramatic rise and fall that best fits a feature film. Still, a biographic motion picture, when done well, can convey the feeling of a person's life far more effectively than a history textbook. Which makes the fact that the following figures have never received a definitive feature film or major TV movie about their lives, whether in its totality or just a discrete-if-potent chapter, all the more astonishing.