For years, Christians have been trying to spread the faith through films, mostly rented to individual churches and religious organizations. Who would have thought that a “non-Christian” movie, financed by an Arab shipping magnate and Twentieth Century-Fox, then purchased and distributed by Warner Brothers, would become a hit in a secular world, yet contain a powerful Christian message?

Chariots of Fire, based on a true story of two British runners training for the Paris Olympics in 1924, has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, has been a huge box office success, and is still playing in all of the five cities in which it opened last September. It has been nominated for best picture, best director, best supporting actor, best editing, best music, best costume design, and best screenplay.

“I was raised a Catholic. This is probably one of the most stirring movies I’ve seen in my whole life,” said Barry Reardon, president and general manager of Warner Brothers Film Distribution Company. He estimates the movie will earn his company some $15 million in film rentals (which would mean about $30 million in gross box office receipts). Most good foreign films (Chariots of Fire is British) earn between $1 million and $3 million in film rentals.

British producer David Puttnam got the idea for the film by reading through a reference book entitled The Official History of the Olympics, the only book he could find to browse through in a home he had just rented in Los Angeles. He hired a writer, Colin Welland, whose film credits include Straw Dogs, to work with him as the idea for the movie developed. The director was Hugh Hudson, who has directed television documentaries before, but never a movie. The film’s two leading actors, Ben ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.