40 years ago today, Chariots of Fire premiered in a Royal Command Film Performance in England. Based on a true story of two British athletes competing in the 1924 Olympics, the drama won four of seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The iconic electronic theme by Vangelis won the Oscar for Best Original Score and is often mimicked during slow-motion scenes today.
The story centers around two very different men: Eric Liddell a devout Scottish Christian who runs fast to honor the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, a Jewish student at Cambridge University who runs to overcome prejudice and anti-Semitism on campus.
In one of the famous scenes, Abrahams, played by Ben Cross, becomes the first person ever to complete the Trinity Great Court Run, sprinting around the perimeter of the college courtyard in the time it takes for the clock to strike 12. Though Liddell beats him in their first race, Abrahams achieves an undefeated string of victories in national track events and both are heading for the Olympics.
With its stirring use of spiritual and patriotic themes, the film’s title was inspired by the line “Bring me my Chariot of fire!” from the William Blake poem adapted into the British hymn Jerusalem, which is the climactic number heard at the end of the film. WATCH the trailer rereleased in 2012… (1981)
MORE Good News on this Date in History:
- Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch Impressionist artist, was born (1853)
- The Queensboro Bridge in New York City—also known as the 59th Street Bridge designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark—which includes a pedestrian walkway and bicycle path linking Manhattan and Queens, opened (1909)
- Happy 84th Birthday to Warren Beatty, the director–producer, and actor (Bonnie & Clyde, Shampoo, Dick Tracy, Reds) was born in Virginia (1937)
- Albert Einstein announced his revised Unified Field Theory (1953)
- The Yonge Street subway line opened in Toronto—the first subway in Canada (1954)
- The first Gay Rights Parade was held in Michigan (1979)
- Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers sold for a record $39.7 million (coincidentally, on the anniversary of his 1853 birth), despite the painter only selling a single canvas during his lifetime (1987)
- Myanmar’s first democratically-elected president in more than 50 years was sworn in, after the National League of Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the November general election (2016)
Happy 76th Birthday to Eric Clapton, the blues-rock musician, singer, and songwriter that Rolling Stone magazine named the second greatest guitar player of all-time.
The British rocker was a founding member of the Yardbirds, Derek and the Dominos, and Cream and produced huge hits like Layla, Crossroads, and Let It Rain. He survived heroin addiction to launch a successful solo career and open his own recovery center for addicts in Antigua, called the Crossroads Centre. (1945)
151 years ago today, the 15th Amendment was certified as duly ratified and part of the United States Constitution, guaranteeing all men the right to vote regardless of race. It was the crucial first step in a long war that saw court battles striking down state regulations for many more decades that sought to deny voting rights to blacks. It would be fifty more years until women were granted the same rights. (1870)
Happy 53rd Birthday to Celine Dion, who sang the theme from the film Titanic, My Heart Will Go On. After hearing her voice, the music manager Rene Angelil mortgaged his house to produce her debut album. The French-Canadian pop artist became his wife and they sold over 200 million albums. (1968)
And, 54 years ago today, Michael Cooper photographed the cover for the Beatles masterpiece, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. British ‘pop’ artist Peter Blake and his wife were hired by art director Robert Fraser to create more than 70 life-sized cut-out figures of Beatle heroes for the famous collage, including Edgar Allen Poe, Fred Astaire, Carl Jung, Lenny Bruce, Dylan Thomas, Karl Marx, H.G. Wells, Laurel and Hardy, Lewis Caroll, Tony Curtis, one-time Beatle bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe, and — at George’s request — a number of Indian gurus. WATCH a video about the photo shoot below with tantalizing details… (1967)
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