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Chariots of Fire (1981)

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Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics.

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(original screenplay)
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3,667 ( 634)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 14 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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...
Lord Andrew Lindsay
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...
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Henry Stallard
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Master of Trinity (as Sir John Gielgud)
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Master of Caius
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...
Jennie Liddell
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...
...
Patrick Magee ...
Lord Cadogan
...
Duke of Sutherland
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Storyline

It's the post-WWI era. Britons Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell are both naturally gifted fast sprinters, but approach running and how it fits into their respective lives differently. The son of a Lithuanian-Jew, Harold, who lives a somewhat privileged life as a student at Cambridge, uses being the fastest to overcome what he sees as the obstacles he faces in life as a Jew despite that privilege. In his words to paraphrase an old adage, he is often invited to the trough, but isn't allowed to drink. His running prowess does earn him the respect of his classmates, especially his running teammates, and to some extent the school administration, if only he maintains what they consider proper gentlemanly decorum, which isn't always the case in their minds. Born in China the son of Christian missionaries, Eric, a Scot, is a devout member of the Church of Scotland who eventually wants to return to that missionary work. He sees running as a win-win in that the notoriety of being fast gives him... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Two men chasing dreams of glory! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Sport

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

9 April 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Carros de fuego  »

Box Office

Budget:

$5,500,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$58,800,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The scene in which Harold Abrahams first sees Sybil Gordon, singing as Yum-Yum in "The Mikado", is based on either a mistake of fact or a deliberate alteration to make the story more romantic. In real life, the name of Harold Abrahams' bride was Sybil Evers. Evers was a member of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, but while Sybil Gordon was its principal soprano, Sybil Evers was a minor soprano, who sang the role of Peep-Bo The Mikado, not the lead role Yum-Yum as it appears in the movie. Moreover, she only appeared with the D'Oyly Carte company for one season, 1930-31. Evers and Abrahams did not meet until 1934, 10 years after Abrahams' Olympic victory. They were married in 1936. (In real life, while he was a Cambridge student, Abrahams was engaged to a young woman, Christina McLeod Innes, but they broke up when he decided to devote himself full time to athletics and the Olympics.) See more »

Goofs

In the 1920s, American flags had 48 stars, not 50. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Lord Andrew Lindsay: Let us praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. All these men were honoured in their generations and were a glory in their days. We are here today to give thanks for the life of Harold Abrahams. To honour the legend. Now there are just two of us - young Aubrey Montague and myself - who can close our eyes and remember those few young men with hope in our hearts and wings on our heels.
See more »


Soundtracks

Three Little Maids from School Are We
(1885) (uncredited)
from "The Mikado"
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert
See more »

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User Reviews

Harold Abrahams...dynamite
23 January 2003 | by (ohio, usa) – See all my reviews

The strength of this movie is the study in character contrast and development, with the added attractions of a historical setting and the soaring, ethereal musical score of Evangelos Papathanassiou.

The film is anchored in the character study of the introspective, brooding, and complex persona of Harold Abrahams, wonderfully portrayed by Ben Cross. Here is a man with all of the outward trappings of success: academic achievement, unexcelled athletic ability, wildly popular with his peers, yet tortured by an inbred inferiority complex and driven to lash out at the world in response. In the end, he conquers his inner demons through hard work, sacrifice, understanding of his fellow man, and the love of a good woman, to whom he opens his heart. I found myself thinking that Harold Abrahams is the kind of man I would want as my best friend, yet at the same time would find hard to become close with and relate to.

Ian Charleston's character (Eric Liddell) is a bit more one-dimensional. He is the archetypical Good Man, faithful to his family, his country, his friends, and his God. And in the end he triumphs through sheer force of will and by tapping that reservoir of inner strength that sustains him. As the crusty coach Sam Mussambini says, "He's a gut runner. Digs deep...".

It's a bit of a pity that the movie, long though it is, could not have delved more deeply into the other characters' background. Lord Andrew Lindsey is particularly appealing as Harold's and Eric's faithful friend who gives up his spot in his specialty race (the 400 m) to allow Eric a chance at the gold. Sybil Gordon is wonderful as Harold's love interest who tries to draw him out of his lonely world of bitterness and resentment and self-hatred ("You ran like a God. I was proud of you...", even after Harold loses a race for the first time in his life to a more determined Eric). Even some of the American competitors, who are only peripherally portrayed in the concluding segments, lend some color. Jackson Scholtz' reaching out to Eric Liddell gives one the sense that he knows the greatness of spirit that quietly resides in this unassuming Scotsman.

Its a wonderful story wonderfully told, and when its over you find yourself longing for it to continue, to see how these characters we've come to know over the previous two hours will turn out in the rest of their lives. Alas, the story of their lives is noted only in subtitles as the film closes.


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