It's the post-World War I 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 ...Written by
Harold Abrahams competed in the 1920 Olympics. He finished fourth in the 4x100 relay, twentieth in the long jump, and was eliminated in the quarter-finals of both the 100-meter and 200-meter races. See more »
When Eric and Jennie Liddell talk on the hill in Edinburgh, a man jogs across the background in a 1970s/80s tracksuit. See more »
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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There is at least one slightly different version of the movie, issued in Europe on homevideo. The beginning is different - shorter - and introduces Harold Abrahams while playing cricket with his colleagues. The scene in the train station, where Monty meets Harold is absent, as well as the loading of the baggage in the taxi they share. We simply see Monty writing a letter to his parents, mentioning that "Harold is as intense as ever" (cut to the cricket scene, maybe 30 seconds long), and then continues with "I remember our first day... we shared a taxi together" (cut to the two students unloading their stuff from the car). This alternate version also have slightly different end credits, and does not mention Harold marrying Sybil. The differences are minor (the U.S. version provides a more shocking memento of WWI, when it shows crippled baggage handlers in the station); one of the reasons the cricket scene was dropped in favour of the station one was due to the distributor's worry that the American market would not understand it. See more »
I saw this film - an account of British athletes at the Paris Olympics of 1924 - twice when it came out, but i was prompted to watch it again by the holding of the 2012 Olympic Games in my home city of London. The contrast between the movie of the 1926 Games and the television coverage of the 2012 extravaganza showed just how massive the Games have become and yet how the personal factors involved are essentially the same.
"Chariots Of Fire" opens and closes with the iconic scene of the British bare-foot runners exercising on a beach by the sea as the haunting music of Vangelis soars - a scene borrowed by Mr Bean (aka Rowan Atkinson) for a very funny pastiche at the 2012 Opening Ceremony.
All the characters are real life, even if some of them seem larger than life and there is a degree of artistic licence in the story-telling. The two main ones are Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a sprinter driven by a need to prove himself in a world where being Jewish is still a problem for the English Eastablishment, and Eric Liddell ( Ian Charleston, a deeply religious Scot who refuses to take part in an Olympic heat because it is scheduled for a Sunday (an issue echoed in the 2012 Games which coincided with Ramadan and posed problems for some Muslim athletes). Among a strong support cast, special mention should be made of Ian Holm as the Arab-Italian trainer Sam Mussabini.
It is a wonderfully uplifting story told with style and panache. The film won five Academy Award, including Best Picture, leading the writer Colin Welland to shout: "The British are coming!"
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