My day turned sadder with the news of Chadwick Boseman’s passing at the it-can’t-be age of 43 from colon cancer, and so I turn this Monday post from its standard movie review to a tribute to one of my favorite actors.
Boseman could act. And I related to his roles, yes, I did.
Back in my days with the big daily, I my entertainment duties encompassed covering the progress and premiere of the movie The Express, a documentary drama that chronicled the life of former Syracuse University football star Ernie Davis. Davis, whose nickname was the Elmira Express for the New York State town of his origins (hence the title of the film) was important to our society for far more than his ample football skills. In 1961 he was the first Black man to win the Heisman Trophy as the best player in the nation. His Syracuse team met and challenged racism from southern teams during games. After Davis was picked No. 1 by the Cleveland Browns of the NFL, he died of leukemia.
It was a life made for Hollywood.
Boseman had the role of Floyd Little, Davis’ teammate and even as the movie premiered in 2008, still a major figure at Syracuse University. And so I was introduced to Boseman’s work amid Rob Brown, who played Davis, and Dennis Quaid, who portrayed coach Ben Schwartwalder, and other’s more prominent in the movie business.
Then Boseman took off in the sports movie scene, playing pioneer baseball legend Jackie Robinson in the 2013 hit 42. The next year he was The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, in Get On Up.
I thought he was Robinson up there on the screen. And Brown, too. And there couldn’t have been two different personalities.
On a personal level, here was an actor who dove into sports and music, totally. I was a sports editor and then a music critic. You bet I was all in.
His interviews revealed a man to respect. In 2017, he starred as activist attorney Thurgood Marshall.
The Marvel Universe also made him the Black Panther, and gave him his own movie to star in after supporting roles.
He surely shined.
Chadwick Boseman, I will miss your work, your dignity, your presence in my life watching and writing about movies, my knowledge that you were in our world doing good.