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Citius Altius Fortius

Olympics at the Movies

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CAF's Bond thread made me think of generally how the Olympics have featured on the silver screen.

I actually think it's surprising that there haven't been that many movies at all that have taken the Olympics as a major theme or setting.

The big exception, of course, is Chariots of Fire, which has almost become a cliche of Olympism now. Good movie, though.

chariotsoffire_poster.jpg

Another one I can think of one from the 1960s called "The Games", which starred Ryan O'Neill and followed four athletes _ Ryan, a British runner, a Czech runner played by Charles Aznavour and an aboriginal Australian runner, as they prepared for the Rome Games.

Of course, there's also the documentaries like Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia" and the Bud Greenspan movies, but I'm thinking more about major Hollywood fiction features.

And of course, there's plenty of Olympians who have made the transition to the big screen _ Johnny Weismuller, Sonja Heine, etc.

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Just thought of another _ who could forget "Cool Runnings", the movie that made the Jamaican bobsled team stars:

cover.w145.jpg

And one that is mooted to be coming up ... Spielberg is apparently working on one about the 1972 Games and the terrorist massacre. I think Tom Hanks has been mentioned in connection with it.

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Chariots of Fire is still one of my favorites ever.  And the music - ahhhhhhhh -

Two others that come to mind - Ice Castles in 1979 (great music also) and The Cutting Edge, around 1992, which was actually pretty good (although Moira Kelly has trouble acting her way out of a bag) :rolleyes:

cuttingedge.jpg

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Talking about Olympians switching to the big screen, my vote for BAAAD career choice goes to Bruce Jenner in "Can't Stop The Music":

carntstopthe.jpg

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That's more like it.  A thread like this has always been in the back of my mind -- but I really didn't want to launch it because there are only a LIMITED # of good films that one way or another featured/included the Olympics.  So, it is a finite set.  Here are a few:

1.  It Happened in Athens (1961) - a b&w fictional recreation of the 1896 Olympics when a movie star is offered as a prize at one of the Olympic events -- something like that. This was a Hollywood film w/ Jayne Mansfield and a very loose retelling of Spyridon Louis' story.

2.  The aforesaid CHARIOTS OF FIRE.

3. SONNENSCHEIN (or "Sunshine") with Ralph Fiennes.  Good movie.  He played a 3-generation Jewish-Hungarian man, the middle-one of which played an Olympic-winning fencer at the 1936 Games.  Very good recreation of interior sequences;  and then later, even though...well, I won't tell you the ending because I recommend this film highly.  One very "chilling" scene -- in a concentration camp when, in the middle of winter, the Nazis tie a man to a tree, and then hose him down, so you can see the ice forming, and they freeze him to death.  

4.  Rent THE FIRST OLYMPICS.  A made-for-TV movie about the young American team that went to Athens 1896.  Unlike the fictional IT HAPPENED IN ATHENS, this one is based on fact, even more closely that CHARIOTS.  This one is available in video.  

THere may be a few more, but I have to scoot now.  Later.

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Well, while I'm in the mood for compiling camp Olympics/Movies trivia, here's some more tidbits:

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

In this one, the Rosalind Russell and marilyn Monroe characters travel across to Europe on the same ship as the US Olympic team (I suppose they're bound for Helsinki). Has a memorable song and dance sequence with Rosalind vamping it up with the team around the ships pool/gym. One of the great camp/beefcake musical sequences:

janerussell21thumb.jpgjanerussell22thumb.jpgjanerussell23thumb.jpg

Airport '80 _ Concorde

One of the last of the great Disaster Films genre (and the one that killed the Airport franchise). Featured a plot involving terrorism on the Concorde while it was on its way to Moscow for the 1980 Olympics. It flopped badly, probably partlky because the US boycotted that games (and it was a stinker of a film). Point of interest, soft-porn actress Sylvia Kristel playing an air stewardess.

rec_movie-airport-1.jpg

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

In this one, the Rosalind Russell and marilyn Monroe characters travel across to Europe on the same ship as the US Olympic team (I suppose they're bound for Helsinki). Has a memorable song and dance sequence with Rosalind vamping it up with the team around the ships pool/gym. One of the great camp/beefcake musical sequences:

ohh - yeah - I like this beefcake scene, too.

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I remember a movie (sorry I don´t remember the title) in which two american students live together with a japanese girl in Tokyo during the Tokyo Olympics (they didn´t find an accomodation, because of the Olympics).

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Well, while I'm in the mood for compiling camp Olympics/Movies trivia, here's some more tidbits:

#1 - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

In this one, the Rosalind Russell and marilyn Monroe characters travel across to Europe on the same ship as the US Olympic team (I suppose they're bound for Helsinki). Has a memorable song and dance sequence with Rosalind vamping it up with the team around the ships pool/gym. One of the great camp/beefcake musical sequences:

janerussell21thumb.jpgjanerussell22thumb.jpgjanerussell23thumb.jpg

#2 - Airport '80 _ Concorde

One of the last of the great Disaster Films genre (and the one that killed the Airport franchise). Featured a plot involving terrorism on the Concorde while it was on its way to Moscow for the 1980 Olympics. It flopped badly, probably partlky because the US boycotted that games (and it was a stinker of a film). Point of interest, soft-porn actress Sylvia Kristel playing an air stewardess.

rec_movie-airport-1.jpg

#1 - Jane Russell, not Rosalind Russell.

#2 - Airport - Concorde - Actually, that was for me the best of the 3 "Airport" films.  I liked the drama aboard a supersonic jet.  And cabaret singer Andrea Marcovicci played a Rumanian (which she really is) gymnast, a la Nadia.  Good crash scenes in the Alps.

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#1 - Jane Russell, not Rosalind Russell.

Quite right, Baron. The funny thing is I actually types in Jane Russell when I googled up the pics, so I must have had a synapse explosion.

I loved the sub-story in "The Aviator" dealing with Howard Hughes' obsession with her breasts and how he invented a special bra for them.

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This list isn't exhaustive, and I haven't seen all of them, but here's a few Olympic-themed or related films that I'm aware of:

1. Cool Runnings (1988 Calgary)...probably my all time fave Olympic film and of course Disney plays with the truth.

2. Miracle (1980 Lake Placid)...Disney goes serious with the Miracle on Ice. The game sequences are fantastic, recreating history brilliantly

3. Chariots of Fire (Paris 1924)...David Putnam's brilliant film has only some resemblance to history, but it's not purely a film about sport or the games. It's essentially a character study of Liddell, Abrahams and British class structures.

4. Geordie (Melbourne 1956)...one of the warm, understated and really well done British films from the 1950s. It's all very fictional but the story of 'wee Geordie', the Scots hammer thrower who wins gold in his kilt at Melbourne is pure gold.

5. Wunschkonzert (Berlin 1936)...I've never seen this Nazi propoganda film, but the love story that forms the basis of the movie starts at the Berlin games where two German athletes meet, fall in love, then are separated.

6. The 500 Pound Jerk (Munich 1972)...a made for TV movie with a backward US superheavyweight lifter being manipulated by a city-smart manager, who in turn loses his cynicism. The film culminates with a chase scene when the hero falls in love with a defecting Soviet gymnast

7. Dawn (Melbourne 1956/Rome 1960/Tokyo 1964)...the Aussie biopic of Olympic great Dawn Fraser.

8. Charlie Chan at the Olympics (Berlin 1936)...I've never seen this but here's the imdb link here

9. One Day In September (1972 Munich)...arguably the greatest Olympic doco made since 'Olympia' by Leni Riefenstahl. More thoughts on this to follow.

10. Running Brave (Tokyo 1964)...the story of Indian Billy Mills (played by Robby Benson), the climax of the movie is the 10,000 metres final when Mills surprised all and beat favourite Ron Clarke to win gold.

11. Gentleman Prefer Blondes (Helsinki 1952?)...great Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell flick. Very tasty looking!

12. Alex (Rome 1960)...Never seen this Kiwi film (see this link)

13. Babe (1932 LA)...the TV biopic of Mildred 'Babe' Didrickson, multi-talented sports woman and gold medallist at the 32 games

14. Bob Matthias Story (1948/1952)...Bob Matthias actually starred as himself in his own biopic

15. The Cutting Edge (Calgary 1988)...see below

16. The First Olympics (1896)...see Baron's comments and here

17. The Games (Rome 1960)...see CAF's post re the plot details

18. Getting There (Salt Lake 2002)..why anyone would want to see a TV movie about the Olsen twins going to SLC defies my imagination!!!

19. Downhill Racer (?)...not sure which Olympics this Robert Redford/Gene Hackmann alpine skiing film is set in, but I know Redford's character wins gold

20. El Grito (Mexico City 1968)...a Mexican doco about the demonstratins before the 68 games

21. It Happened in Athens (Athens 1896)...a Jayne Mansfield at the first modern games flick...wow!! Bob Matthias made an appearance too

22. Olympia Teil I & Teil II (Berlin 1936)...arguably the greatest Olympic film ever...I've seen and got edited works but the actual film in two parts goes on forever and hasn't been released for years. Have a look at 'Macht Der Bilder Leni Riefenstahl' for more info on this film

23. The Jesse Owens Story (Berlin 1936)..another made for TV biopic...also features much of Jesse's problems with the race issues at the 68 games.

24. Jim Thorpe All American (1912 Stockholm)..yet another biopic, with Burt Lancaster as the dual gold medallist

25. Million Dollar Legs (1932)...I haven't seen this, but it's a WC Fields film where a fictional country decides to enter the Olympics. It looks like it would be hilarious (see the imdb link here). What can one say about a film with the country of Klokstopia as the setting?!

No doubt there's heaps more, but as far as I know from my own viewing and from what IMDB lists, these would be the movies that have really focused on an Olympics. If I was to give any indication of my favourites they would be:

1. Cool Runnings

2. Geordie

3. Chariots of Fire

4. One Day in september

5. Miracle

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22. Olympia Teil I & Teil II (Berlin 1936)...arguably the greatest Olympic film ever...I've seen and got edited works but the actual film in two parts goes on forever and hasn't been released for years. Have a look at 'Macht Der Bilder Leni Riefenstahl' for more info on this film

Try www.amazon.de

I actually bought a copy of it, in two parts, when I was in Germany earlier this year _ it seemed widely available.

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13. Babe (1932 LA)...the TV biopic of Mildred 'Babe' Didrickson, multi-talented sports woman and gold medallist at the 32 games

Babe?  I don't remember the talking little piglet going to the Olympics.  You must have it confused with some other Miss Piggy film.   :wwww:

Of course there was a TV movie about the murders in Munich with Franco Nero playing the terrorist leader, and filmed on the actual locations.  Word has it that this same subject is Steven Spielberg's next project -- so one can only imagine how intense that treatment will be.  

Seb, documentaries shouldn't count on this thread.  It's only "films" so that means 'protrayed' treatments.  Who needs the real thing?  They are just so tawdry.   :wink:

Of course, I am still waiting for "The Tonya Harding Story."  I am hoping it will be a musical!!

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22. Olympia Teil I & Teil II (Berlin 1936)...arguably the greatest Olympic film ever...I've seen and got edited works but the actual film in two parts goes on forever and hasn't been released for years. Have a look at 'Macht Der Bilder Leni Riefenstahl' for more info on this film

Try www.amazon.de

I actually bought a copy of it, in two parts, when I was in Germany earlier this year _ it seemed widely available.

roltel is right - you can get it immediately:

OLYMPIA I - Fest der Völker

OLYMPIA II - Fest der Schönheit

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Of course there was a TV movie about the murders in Munich with Franco Nero playing the terrorist leader, and filmed on the actual locations.  Word has it that this same subject is Steven Spielberg's next project -- so one can only imagine how intense that treatment will be.  

Seb, documentaries shouldn't count on this thread.  It's only "films" so that means 'protrayed' treatments.  Who needs the real thing?  They are just so tawdry.   :wink:

Of course, I am still waiting for "The Tonya Harding Story."  I am hoping it will be a musical!!

Yeah, I remember seeing that Franco Nero movie. Was it Lee Remick who played the part of a German Olympics "hostess" or undercover policewoman who was sent to negotiate with the terrorists? It was ages ago since I saw it.

Here's some info I came across today on the Spielberg plan:

BUDAPEST, May 12 (AFP) - US director Steven Spielberg is to begin shooting a movie on the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Spielberg's spokesman said on Thursday, adding that filming would take place in Hungary.

The film will be called ``Vengeance'' in reference to the subsequent operation by Israeli intelligence agents to track down and kill several of the murder suspects, Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy told the national MTI news agency.

...

MTI said filming is expected to start in early July.

AFP

And finally, wasn't there some news earlier this year on a plan to film a movie (could have even been a comedy) loosely based on the Tonya Harding scandal?

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13. Babe (1932 LA)...the TV biopic of Mildred 'Babe' Didrickson, multi-talented sports woman and gold medallist at the 32 games

Babe?  I don't remember the talking little piglet going to the Olympics.  You must have it confused with some other Miss Piggy film.   :wwww:

Of course there was a TV movie about the murders in Munich with Franco Nero playing the terrorist leader, and filmed on the actual locations.  Word has it that this same subject is Steven Spielberg's next project -- so one can only imagine how intense that treatment will be.  

Seb, documentaries shouldn't count on this thread.  It's only "films" so that means 'protrayed' treatments.  Who needs the real thing?  They are just so tawdry.   :wink:

Of course, I am still waiting for "The Tonya Harding Story."  I am hoping it will be a musical!!

Yes...I remember that Franco Nero TV movie too. It was called '21 Hours in Munich' and it was a fairly bland retelling of the Munich massacre. It had William Holden in it and was rather colourless.

gbq04935.jpg

And yes, docos shouldn't count. The reason why I included 'Olympia' and 'One Day in September' was they both had huge cinema releases as documentaries and can be procured in one format or another (perhaps more readily than I thought). But if it was simply fictional films then these wouldn't count.

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Of course there was a TV movie about the murders in Munich with Franco Nero playing the terrorist leader, and filmed on the actual locations.  Word has it that this same subject is Steven Spielberg's next project -- so one can only imagine how intense that treatment will be.  
BUDAPEST, May 12 (AFP) - US director Steven Spielberg is to begin shooting a movie on the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Spielberg's spokesman said on Thursday, adding that filming would take place in Hungary.

The film will be called ``Vengeance'' in reference to the subsequent operation by Israeli intelligence agents to track down and kill several of the murder suspects, Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy told the national MTI news agency.

...

MTI said filming is expected to start in early July.

AFP

(edited quote)

For me, Steven Spielberg is so utterly wrong for any film treatment of the Munich massacre story, in that his films are above all commercial. Whilst he may have moments of creative insight (e.g. filiming 'Schindler's List' in black and white, the Omaha beach sequence in 'Saving Prrivate Ryan'), Spielberg plays for the heart strings and the wallet every time. There is a naivete and obviousness about his movies that always signals to the audience 'I know what you want'.

Take in point his best film, 'Saving Private Ryan'. It wasn't enough for Spielberg to insinuate that Hanks' character was battle fatigued...you had to get close and loving shots of his shaking hand every second frame. And the imagery of the killed Hanks' with his hand still was straight out of Directing 101. There was no moral ambivalence, and there never really is in Spielberg films, and he can't restrain himself from flag-furling and sentimentality.

What a horrific story like the Munich Massacre needs is someone like Martin Scorsese or (unfortunately now dead) Stanley Kubrick, who would impart a more ambiguous vision of the Munich massacre. The strongest points of the doco 'One Day in September' was that you got the feeling that the only people not implicated in the massacre were the israeli's themselves. You had the Black September operatives, you had the German authorities, you had the IOC, the media and even other Olympic athletes manipulating the crisis or ignoring it to their own ends.

I think we'll find that the Spielberg film has already indicated where it's heading considering it's proposed title 'Vengeance', and I can see the final scene now...

"A descendant of one of the dead Israeli athletes walks past 31 Harold Connolly Strasse to place some token of rememberance at the doorway to where his or her father/grandfather was killed/held captive, and as the camera follows the action Avery Brundages' "The Games must go on" speech will run over the soundtrack...then fade out".

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Yeah, I don't trust Spielberg with it _ the guy just can't help himself when it comes to sentimentality.

On a related stream, what about TV shows (fiction, of course)? These seem to be few and far between, apart from the odd "special episode" of a series (I remember a "Murphy Brown" episode set in Lillehammer, for example.

About the only other one I can think of was an Australian teen serial/drama based around a bunch of young athletes (cyclists, swimmers and gymnasts) at an Institute of Sport type set-up. It's name escapes me, and it didn't last on TV here for long, but it was notable for launching the career of Heath Ledger.

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I forgot about "Prefontaine" because it was such a bad movie (although a great story line)

Story of Steve Prefontaine who competed in Munich and died just prior to Montreal

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There was a movie about the USA Hockey team in Sarajevo 1980...

Its not Sarajevo but Lake Placid. The title is Miracle.

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Here's some info I came across today on the Spielberg plan:

BUDAPEST, May 12 (AFP) - US director Steven Spielberg is to begin shooting a movie on the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Spielberg's spokesman said on Thursday, adding that filming would take place in Hungary.

The film will be called ``Vengeance'' in reference to the subsequent operation by Israeli intelligence agents to track down and kill several of the murder suspects, Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy told the national MTI news agency.

...

MTI said filming is expected to start in early July.

AFP

SO, yes, the Speilberg film will not focus so much on the tragic events in Munich, but the aftermath of that Bloody September.  It was either based on a book, or at least the article, excerpted in VANITY FAIR and which I read, about how the Mossad went after the planners/ringleaders of the heinous act.

Methinks the CIA/our Homeland Security should really take lessons from the Mossad and/or outsource the search for that camel-f*cker, Oxsana b L to the Mossad.  

Speaking of which, that Ms. Universe of 1974(?) (olympian, we need you here?), that Georgina Rizsk, a Miss Lebanon, later married one of the plotters behind the Munich operation, so she herself of course, came under heavy surveillance by the Mossad.

So I think the Speilberg film will be a heavy cloak-and-dagger (a Bourne Identity-type) flick -- AND entertaining as it should be, since he is getting your money, and you should certainly get something in return.   n'cest pas?

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