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on March 27, 2017
Excellent movie. I have shown it to my students and they LOVE it
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on June 29, 2013
Enjoyed seeing this great athlete. The history of the Nazi behavior at the time was a reminder of their inhuman behavior. I was thrilled to see Louis Zamperini and hear his input!
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on December 18, 2014
A fantastic documentary of an amazing human!
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on October 29, 2014
As a fan of track and field fan I was disappointed that the film's producer did not focus more on Owens's achievements on the track. Owens is famous because he was a phenomenal athlete. I wanted the film to spend more time on his track career. However, the assembled experts seemed a little clueless about his track exploits and got too many facts wrong. It was great to see so much new film of Owens in his prime. He was such a graceful runner. For me, the documentary focused too much on race and politics.

The documentary repeated stories that have become part of the Owens myth. Historian Margaret MacMillan was employed to tell us that the Nazis were upset because Owens beat their athletes in Berlin. Germany topped the medal table in 1936 and the Nazis achieved the PR victory they wanted. They won 89 medals compared to 56 for the US, which finished second. My wife's uncle attended the games in Berlin and told me that Owens was treated like a celebrity by the Germans. Luz Long, the German champion gave Owens coaching advice to help him qualify for the long jump final. Their friendship is recorded in Leni Riefenstahl's documentary Olympia. Long became a soldier and was killed in action in 1943.

MacMillan repeats the story that Hitler snubbed Owens. Owens claimed after the games that "Hitler didn't snub me - it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram." The true story is that Hitler congratulated German athletes on the first day of the 1936 Olympics, only to be informed by IOC officials that he should congratulate all athletes or none, in order to show neutrality as the presiding head of state. Hitler opted to congratulate no-one, and was not even in the stadium when Jesse Owens was securing his medals. President Franklin D. Roosevelt never publicly acknowledged Owens' achievements or send a letter of congratulation. There was a ticker-tape parade in New York in his honor, but ironically to attend the reception, as an African-American, Owens had to use the back elevator at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where it was held. The front one was reserved for white people. The trouble with depicting the Germans as racists is that the US also practiced segregation at the time.

The film mentions that the top American Olympic official, Avery Brundage, was pro-Nazi. The reality was that a lot of leading Americans were pro-Nazi in the 1930s, including Charles Lindberg, Henry Ford, and George Marshall. I recently read a book by Lynne Olson which showed that the country was divided about who to support, in the years leading up to WW2. She revealed that Germany had a lot of American allies including the top US military commanders. This has all been airbrushed from history.

After the games Brundage removed Owens' amateur status. Owens had left a European fund-raising tour early and returned to the US. The film showed that Owens had more to fear from his fellow Americans than the Germans. Owens may have been representing freedom and democracy, but the film mentions that he struggled to find a hotel room in New York after he returned from Berlin. Unlike later generations of African-Americans Owens was unable to make money out of his fame. He received no Hollywood offers and no endorsement contracts. Three years after his victories in Berlin, a failed business deal forced Owens to declare bankruptcy.

This is a sad story and a cautionary tale. I would preferred to have watched a film that celebrated Owens's genius rather than revisit the unfortunate racism of the past.
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on June 27, 2016
Chronicles Jesse Owens from his time at the University of Ohio where he wins some races but gets bogged down in celebrity. He returns home to marry his sweetheart then gets qualified for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The NAACP questions weather he should go. He goes and trounces the German's ugly positions. HE is goaded into some additional appearances but her returns home where he is banned from participating in events. He resorts to racing against...a HORSE!

Not until the 1950's does he reappear as a hero against the Cold War and get some endorsements. Insightful.
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on May 18, 2012
It was enjoyable to watch. You don't expect tons of detail in 52 minutes however many documentaries manage to include more depth and heart than this one does. It is good, but not gripping and given the subject matter I believe it had the potential to be great.
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on May 2, 2012
I saw this new American Experience episode on TV last night and was extremely disappointed. I hardly know where to begin my critique. That a program about Jesse Owens, and all the immense drama of his life and the era he lived in, can be made into a boring hour long program, is really quite an achievement. If you have ever seen veteran sports film maker Bud Greenspan's little known 'Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin' ( part of his Olympiad Series from the 1960's) then you know what a disappointment this new program is. While this American Experience program is without soul and drama, Greenspan's program bursts at the seams with emotion and searing dramatic intensity. At only 46 minutes in length ( vs the 60 minutes of this new program) it not only has Owens providing the narration and on camera presence (which cannot be held against PBS since Owens died decades ago), but also covers his triumphant return to the Berlin Olympic stadium in the 1950's where he was lionized by a packed house of Germans. Read my review of the Greenspan program here on Amazon and buy the few used VHS tapes available. You will not regret it.
Now, back to the American Experience program: The narrator rightly describes the opening ceremonies of the 1936 games in Berlin as among the most awesome ever staged. Yet in this program they fall flat as a pancake. I marveled at how the producers could pull off such a blunder. Again, watch the Greenspan program to see how it SHOULD to be presented. Nor does this new program cover Owens' presence at the 1972 Munich Olympics as the personal guest of the West German President, and therefore misses the golden opportunity to cover Owens' dramatic reaction to the massacre of the Israeli athletes. Anyone who watched the 1972 games on television and the coverage of Owens, knows what I'm talking about. In short, this program did just about everything wrong that could be done wrong in covering a man and an era that couldn't be improved upon in fiction.
The only reason I give it two stars is because they at least got the names, dates and faces right despite the mediocrity in which they're presented.
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on May 16, 2012
I did not expect much of this rehash of the Jesse Owens Berlin Olympics myth, and I was not disappointed. It consisted of the same old lies and cliches, repackaged. Obviously the producers just viewed older versions and copied them, because they just as obviously did not do any new research. The same old lies have just been repeated since 1936 (as John Ford said, "When the legend becomes truth, print the legend"). For those who are still laboring under falsehoods, Hitler did NOT "refuse to shake Jesse Owens' hand"--in fact he was never present in the stadium when Owens performed. And (the most beloved cliche of al), Jesse Owens did NOT "destroy Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy" by winning his gold medals. The German team in the 1936 Olympics won those games by a huge margin, so Hitler was obviously very pleased at the outcome. This leaves one with an inescapable conclusion--either the producers did not do their research or they deliberately lied to keep the legend alive. Either way, do not waste your time with this garbage; just read the book "The Nazi Olympics" for the real history.
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