The Olympics and the movies are almost exact contemporaries. The modern Olympiad debuted in 1896. The Lumière brothers made their first films in 1895. The relationship doesn’t end there.
Swimming gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller became the most-celebrated screen Tarzan. Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia” (1938), about the Berlin Games, is the most influential of all sports documentaries. Cary Grant’s last movie, “Walk, Don’t Run” (1966), is set at the Tokyo Olympics. No, he doesn’t play a competitor. Robert Towne’s directorial debut, “Personal Best” (1982), has its denouement at the 1980 US Olympic track and field trials. And so on.
What about the Winter Olympics and the movies? Them, too: The first snow-and-ice Olympiad was in 1924. Three years later, talkies arrived. Clearly, some kind of affinity obtains. Maybe it’s the resemblance between Olympic rings and sprocket-holes.
But just as the Winter Games are most definitely a distant No. 2 to their warmer-season sibling, so has Hollywood shown far less interest in them. Relations between the Winter Olympics and film have been markedly fewer. They’ve often tended, in fact, to be slightly ridiculous.
Two words may convey that ridiculousness: “Sonja” and “Henie.”
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