Chariots of Fire

From Academic Kids

Chariots of Fire is a British film released in 1981. Directed by Hugh Hudson, and based on the true story of British athletes preparing for and competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won four, including Best Picture. The title is an extract of William Blake's poem And did those feet in ancient time.



The movie is based on the true story of two British athletes competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Englishman Harold Abrahams (played by Ben Cross), having overcome anti-Semitism and class prejudice in order to compete, finds himself up against the "Flying Scotsman", Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) in the 100 metres, but Liddell drops out of the event because his religious convictions prevent him from running on a Sunday. Liddell is allowed to compete in the 400 metres instead. The story is deceptively complex, and compares the similar athletic experiences of Abrahams and Liddell while portraying their vastly different characters and reactions to adversity.

Historical accuracy

Missing image
The Great Court, Trinity College, Cambridge

One scene in the film recreates a race in which the runners attempt to round the perimiter of the Great Court at Trinity College, Cambridge in the time it takes the clock to double strike the hour at midday. The scene was actually filmed at Eton.

The only people believed to have actually completed the run around Trinity Great Court in time are Lord Burghley in 1927 and Sebastian Coe when he beat Steve Cram in a charity race in October 1988.

A major historic inaccuracy in the movie surrounds Liddell's refusal to race in the 100 metres. The film portrays Liddell as finding out that one of the heats was to be held on a Sunday as he was boarding the boat that would take the British Olympic team across the English Channel on their way to Paris. In fact, the schedule was made public several months in advance, and Liddell spent the remaining months training for the 400 metres, an event in which he had previously excelled. The scene in the movie where Liddell fell early in a 400 race in a Scotland-France dual meet and made up a 20-metre deficit to win the race is historically accurate.

Abrahams was an outsider for the medals at the 1924 Olympics, but won the 100 m, beating all the American favourites including Jackson Scholz and Charlie Paddock. In the 200 m, he reached the final, but finished sixth and last. As an opening runner for the 4 x 100 m relay team, Abrahams won a second Olympic medal, a silver one.

Arthur Porritt represented New Zealand at the 1924 Summer Olympics, winning a bronze medal in the 100 m, but refused permission for his real name to be used in the film, allegedly out of modesty. The bronze medallist was portrayed in the film by a fictional 'Tom Watson'.

During the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, an American Express credit card commercial ("Don't leave home without it") included Ben Cross and the 87-year-old Jackson Scholz. When Cross says something about beating Scholz, the latter remarks, "You never beat me!" with mock indignation. Proving he is "still pretty fast", Scholz beats Cross to the draw in picking up the tab with his credit card.


Cast and roles include

Other crew



The original music, which won the movie an Academy Award, was composed by Vangelis.

Filming locations

See also

External links


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