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Chariots of Fire (1981)

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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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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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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Lord Cadogan
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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:

With Wings on their Heels and Hope in their Hearts 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

Born "Colin Williams" on July 4, 1934, in Leigh, near Manchester, England. Because Colin as a child showed early talent in drawing and painting, his father wanted him to become an art teacher. "I wanted to go on the stage, you see, but my dad had his feet firmly on the ground," Welland said on the BBC radio show "Desert Island Discs" in 1973. "He said, be an art teacher first ... and if you don't like that, then go on to the stage. So, that's what I did." Welland joined a theater company in Manchester, changing his last name Williams to Welland, and in the late 1960s appeared on British TV shows. His big break as a 'Colin Welland' film actor was playing the role of a teacher in the 1969 dramatic film "Kes" for which he won a British Academy Film Award. He went on to play a reverend in Sam Peckinpah's violent "Straw Dogs" (1971). Welland wrote stage plays and for several TV series in the late 1960s and 1970s. In his Oscar speech, he thanked "Briish television, where I learned my craft." Following "Chariots of Fire," he received writing credits on feature films "Twice in a Lifetime" (1985), "A Dry White Season" (1989) and "War of the Buttons" (19940. He had acting roles into the late 1990s. Colin (Williams) Welland, 81, died November 2, 2015, suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years. He is survived by his wife Patricia, four children and six grandchildren. See more »

Goofs

In the 1924 the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company was not yet using the set and costume designs seen in this film. These designs were executed by Charles Ricketts for the 1926 production of "The Mikado" at the Savoy Theatre. 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.
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Connections

Spoofed in The Footy Show: The Grand Final Footy Show 2007 (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Yankee Doodle
(uncredited)
Traditional music of English origin
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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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