Chariots Of Fire | 1981
- DIRECTOR |
- Hugh Hudson
This hugely successful flagwaver is based on true events – though slightly Hollywoodised – and ran off with the Best Picture Oscar. Although set partly in France, it was filmed entirely in the UK.
The opening memorial service is a mix of two different locations. The exterior is St Mary le Strand in the Strand. The interior is St Mary le Bow, Cheapside.
The famous slow-motion run along the beach which opens the movie, supposedly at 'Broadstairs’, in Kent, southeast England, is West Sands at St Andrews on the Fife coast of Scotland, where the ‘Carlton Hotel’ is actually the famous clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
Founded in 1754, and exercising authority over the game of golf throughout the world (except for the USA), the Royal and Ancient has meant St Andrews being dubbed the "home of golf", its famous links being the most frequent venue for The Open Championship.
Although there are a few establishing exterior shots of Cambridge University, sensitivity to the story’s accusations of anti-Semitism caused Caius College (pronounced ‘Keys College’), Cambridge, the alma mater of runner Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), to refuse permission to film on its property, and Eton College, north of Windsor, Berkshire, stands in.
A familiar location, Eton is featured in several other other British heritage successes, including The Madness Of King George, Shakespeare In Love, Henry VIII and His Six Wives and Young Sherlock Holmes. Abrahams’ challenge to the "College Dash" around the ‘Great Court of Trinity College’ is around Eton’s School Quad.
Meanwhile, the zealous Christian Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) is awarding prizes at the Highland games, a scene shot at Sma Glen, on the A822 a few miles north of Crieff, Perthshire
Inverleith, in Edinburgh, is the rugby ground where Liddell preaches to the crowd after the Scotland-Ireland meet, while the Scotland-France International was shot at Goldenacre, the grounds of Heriot’s Rugby Club on Bangholm Terrace in Edinburgh.
The ‘London’ restaurant, to which Abrahams takes singer Sybil Gordon (Alice Krige) after seeing her performing The Mikado, is the Oyster Bar of Edinburgh’s Café Royal, 17 West Register Street at Rose Street. The Parisian-style cafe, stained-glass windows, Victorian plasterwork and Doulton ceramic murals, has been serving up oysters (among other delights) since 1863.
Liddell, his obsession with running vying with his faith, is late for the religious meeting at the Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh, and afterwards, with his sister Jennie (Cheryl Campbell), looks out over the city from Holyrood Park.
The vast estate, where aristocratic Lord Lindsay (Nigel Havers) comforts Sybil before leaping over hurdles topped with glasses of champagne, is Hall Barn, south of Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. A 17th century private house built for poet Edmund Waller, the estate can also be seen in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park and in the 1994 film of Black Beauty. The house is not open to the public, though it is sometimes possible to visit the gardens.
The relatively unchanged York Station stands in for London’s ‘King’s Cross’, while ‘Dover Station’, from which the athletes leave for the Olympic Games in France, is the port of Birkenhead, across the River Mersey from Liverpool.
In fact, much of ‘Paris’ is actually Merseyside. The ‘British Embassy’ ball, where the Prince of Wales tries to persuade Liddell to run on the Sabbath, is Liverpool Library and Town Hall, and the ‘French café’ is the no-longer-used chapel of the Royal Hospital, Liverpool.
The ‘Church of Scotland in Paris’, though, where Liddell preaches, really is in Scotland. It's the Broughton McDonald Church, Broughton Place in Edinburgh.