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  • Chariots of Fire

    I just saw this movie for the first time in about 20 years and was wondering how much liberty the producers took with historical facts. In the accompanying CD, they gave the impression that the movie was very much true to history - actual conversations/exchanges were obviously imagined. If this has been discussed previously, my apologies.
    (1) Who is the character Lord Lindsay (?) who won a silver in the hurdles and dropped out to give Liddell his spot in the 400m run? My TF books show no such person getting a medal in Paris. (He is a fairly important character in the movie).
    (2) What was the actual situation re the 400m, was Liddell originally entered or name added at the last moment? The movie gives the impression Liddell ran only in the 400m, whereas he won a bronze in the 200m. (The movie shows the 200 final, but concentrates on the fact that Abrahams "lost" - he was sixth).
    A minor point. In showing Stallard, a small clip is there showing what looks like the final yards of the 1500m. Is the Finn shown winning supposed to be Nurmi in the first part of his superlative performance with two golds in an hour, winning times very close to world records? Is Chariots of Fire closer to The Da Vinci Code in that it takes quite great liberties with historical facts?

  • #2
    Another point. My wife asked me where the title of the movie comes from. Obviously from William Blake's "Jerusalem", which the choir is shown singing as the credits come up for the movie. What's the connection?
    "Bring me my bow of burning gold, bring me my arrows of desire
    Bring me my spear oh clouds unfold, bring me my chariot of fire.
    I will not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
    'Til I have built Jerusalem, in England's green and pleasant land".

    Curious if that is so, for the main interest in the hymn today is to the conditions created in the early days of the Industrial Revolution.
    "And did the countenance divine, shine forth upon those clouded hills,
    And was Jerusalem builded here, Among those dark satanic mills?".

    Some hints please, since I do not belong by background to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

    Comment


    • #3
      paste....

      In real life, Lord David Bughley (Lord Lindsay in the Film) was the first man to do the Great Court Run, not Harold Abrahams. This was changed, because David Puttnam was a socialist and did not want to show a Lord winning, and this is one of the reasons that Lord Burghley did not consent to let his name be used in the film.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~

      While having nothing to do with the film...

      GB put Abrahams on the leadoff leg of their 4x1 team. Yes they thougt with the lead.... Anyway, high schooler Francis Hussey from the USA blew the champ away giving the yanks a two meter advantage they would never lose.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Texas
        paste....

        In real life, Lord David Bughley (Lord Lindsay in the Film) was the first man to do the Great Court Run, not Harold Abrahams. This was changed, because David Puttnam was a socialist and did not want to show a Lord winning, and this is one of the reasons that Lord Burghley did not consent to let his name be used in the film.
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~

        While having nothing to do with the film...

        GB put Abrahams on the leadoff leg of their 4x1 team. Yes they thougt with the lead.... Anyway, high schooler Francis Hussey from the USA blew the champ away giving the yanks a two meter advantage they would never lose.
        Thanks, makes general sense. Burghley was the 1928 400 hurdles champ and also placed 4th in 1932. No Oly connection with Abrahams and Liddell in 1924 I assume.

        Comment


        • #5
          According to IMDB, the working title was "Running" until the writer saw the hymn being performed on the BBC, heard the line, and decided he liked it. Most if not all of your questions can be answered by a page of trivia about the movie at the IMDB.
          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082158/trivia

          In the opening of The Muppet Movie, Kermit's nephew Robin asks if the film is the really how the Muppets got together. Kermit replies "Well, it's how it might have happened." That's how you have to look at Chariots of Fire.

          What's "true" about the film is the depiction of cultural attitudes of the time and place. That to be visibly trying is too plebian, that you don't dirty your hands with money, the complete shock at seeing the American style of training.

          Comment


          • #6
            At the time the film came out, Track & Field News did an article that went over the various historical details and how the film departed from them. I think the bottom line is that the film is true to the big picture of what happened but take quite a bit of historical license on the smaller points.

            I haven't watched the film in quite a while - and ought to since I enjoyed it and have the VHS of it. As to the Jerusalem music, I seem to recall they play it at the beginning as well - at Harold's funeral and the rest of the movie is basically a flashback. I do not know if they really played that music at his funeral but it is true from what I have heard or read elsewhere that he became a major figure in the British federation for many years after he finished competing.

            Comment


            • #7
              Going from memory here... both as to what T&FN said back then, pllus what I've read;

              Jackson Scholz has stated that he never gave a note to Eric Liddell, and was not a bit religious himself.

              Liddell knew quite early that there were heats on Sunday and planned accordingly to not run any event that had heats that day. There was no last minute plan for him to run the 400.

              This movie sometimes gets assailed by Track aficionados, but I've always loved it !

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Texas
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~

                While having nothing to do with the film...

                GB put Abrahams on the leadoff leg of their 4x1 team. Yes they thougt with the lead.... Anyway, high schooler Francis Hussey from the USA blew the champ away giving the yanks a two meter advantage they would never lose.
                You don't miss an opportunity to repeat this fairy tale but it does not make it true.

                The relay race was close until the Brits blew it in the last exchange and the Americans won by about 1.5 meters.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Per Andersen
                  Originally posted by Texas
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~

                  While having nothing to do with the film...

                  GB put Abrahams on the leadoff leg of their 4x1 team. Yes they thougt with the lead.... Anyway, high schooler Francis Hussey from the USA blew the champ away giving the yanks a two meter advantage they would never lose.
                  You don't miss an opportunity to repeat this fairy tale but it does not make it true.

                  The relay race was close until the Brits blew it in the last exchange and the Americans won by about 1.5 meters.
                  USA won 41.0-41.2

                  This from...The Complete Book of the Olympics

                  "Francis Hussey from Stuyvesant High School in New York City beat 100 meter gold medalist Harold Abraham by two yards."

                  Now this....

                  paste...

                  Francis Valentine Joseph (Frank) Hussey, Pi '20
                  Born February 14, 1905. Died December 26, 1974. Tied World Record in 100 yard dash while student at Stuyvesant HS. Gold Medal in 4x100 yard relay 1924 Olympics, beating 'Chariots of Fire' Harold Abrahams on first leg. AAU 100 yard champion, 1925. Boston College. Columbia University. Initial honoree, New York City Track

                  Well?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by dukehjsteve
                    Going from memory here... both as to what T&FN said back then, pllus what I've read;

                    Jackson Scholz has stated that he never gave a note to Eric Liddell, and was not a bit religious himself.

                    Liddell knew quite early that there were heats on Sunday and planned accordingly to not run any event that had heats that day. There was no last minute plan for him to run the 400.

                    This movie sometimes gets assailed by Track aficionados, but I've always loved it !
                    I loved the movie too, catching it the first time on the plane coming to the USA (for the first time) over 25 years ago. I guess all these "historical" movies take some liberties with what really happened. As stated by another poster, it shows quite accurately, the general attitudes in GB, towards race, amateurism etc. in the 1920s. I only saw first hand what it was like in the mid-fifties, and think the movie is quite fair on such matters. For a good take on similar matters take a look at Maugham's short story "An Alien Corn". I rate him as the best short story writer in English, and overall would only rate Chekov and Maupassant as better at this genre.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Wikipedia entry covers many aspects of film's accuracy:
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chariots_of_Fire

                      Interesting tidbit:

                      Other historical inaccuracies include: In the film, the 100m bronze medallist is a fictional character called "Tom Watson"; the real medallist was Arthur Porritt of New Zealand, who refused permission for his name to be used in the film, allegedly out of modesty. His wish was accepted by the film's producers, even though his permission was not necessary.[4]
                      I bought the soundtrack LP at the time of release. Vangelis did some really cool things.

                      K E N
                      K E N

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TrackCEO
                        Wikipedia entry covers many aspects of film's accuracy:
                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chariots_of_Fire

                        Interesting tidbit:

                        Other historical inaccuracies include: In the film, the 100m bronze medallist is a fictional character called "Tom Watson"; the real medallist was Arthur Porritt of New Zealand, who refused permission for his name to be used in the film, allegedly out of modesty. His wish was accepted by the film's producers, even though his permission was not necessary.[4]
                        I bought the soundtrack LP at the time of release. Vangelis did some really cool things.

                        K E N
                        More on Porritt: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Por ... on_Porritt

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by dukehjsteve
                          Going from memory here... both as to what T&FN said back then, pllus what I've read;

                          Jackson Scholz has stated that he never gave a note to Eric Liddell, and was not a bit religious himself.

                          Liddell knew quite early that there were heats on Sunday and planned accordingly to not run any event that had heats that day. There was no last minute plan for him to run the 400.

                          This movie sometimes gets assailed by Track aficionados, but I've always loved it !
                          Liddell actually knew the schedule earlier in the year, and trained for several months for the 400 as a result.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Another piece of poetic licence is where the film shows Liddell travelling from Edinburgh to London to beat Abrahams in the AAA championships over 100m. In the film this defeat galvanises Abrahams and he trains so diligently that he wins the Olympics.

                            In reality this race between the two never took place.

                            The film shows Liddell falling in a race where he competes for Scotland against France in Edinburgh; he returns to his feet and wins. This one nearly happened, the race was in Stoke against England and Ireland in 1923. He won the 100, 220 and 440y that day and Douglas Lowe won the 880y.

                            Liddell won 100, 220 and 440y at the Scottish Championships in 1924 and 1925 (both at Hampden Park, Glasgow - at that time the world's biggest football stadium).

                            There are two biographies of Liddell I recommend - "The Flying Scotsman" by Sally Magnusson and "Complete Surrender" by Julian Wilson. Also "50 years of athletics" from the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association (pub 1933) gives results of the first three in all Scottish Championships and internationals involving Scotland up to 1932.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I had a conversation with Ken Doherty and we talked about several things from the movie. He was a near contemporary--Olympian in '28--and eventually knew all the major players in the film.

                              The one thing he noticed was in the 100m start and the wonderful scene showing the sprinters digging their holes. Ken pointed out that they dug their holes backwards!

                              Comment

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