nine + 12 =

A password will be e-mailed to you.
VjSOWSQI6kE

There have been movies made about college rowing since the 1930s but I’m pretty confident you couldn’t claim any of them to be blockbusters.

Plots more often than not revolve around a (male) rower trying to impress a lady friend, but there are also stories of a rowing vacation on the Thames (The Men in the Boat), an exploration of 1950s Yugoslavia (Dancing in Water), and finding meaning in a girl’s life (Give it All).

Eight Girls in a Boat [1934]

While attending an exclusive Swiss private school where rigid discipline is maintained, rowing is prescribed as a means to distract and occupy the girls. But one girl, Christa Storm, falls for a young medical student and soon discovers that she is going to have a baby. She keeps the pregnancy a secret from everyone but her lover, David, who wants to marry her. When her father refuses to permit the marriage, Christa decides to commit suicide, but can’t go through with it. She continues training with the girls’ crew, but she eventually has to admit her pregnancy to the team when she collapses during a punishing workout. Christa decides to leave school and marry David without her father’s permission.


Student Tour [1934]

A rowing musical starring Jimmy Durante. The rowing team at small Bartlett College goes to England to compete in a regatta, training while listening to dance music (that proves too up-tempo). But when the coxswain offers up a peppy song and dance, the crew wins the race. Unfortunately it was panned by the New York Times who proclaimed: “The photoplay does contain two good songs, but otherwise it possesses the sparkle and wit of a performing elephant.”


Freshman Love [1936. AKA Rhythm on the River]

Watch the trailer

The Billings University rowing coach set a rigorous practice schedule and insists that his rowers lead disciplined lives (no girls and no fun) so that they will be successful on the water and ensure he keeps his coaching job. But the hormones rule supreme, and seductive blonde co-ed Joan repeatedly pulls the oarsmen away from practice. In an attempt to recruit rowers form other universities, Coach Hammond sends them letters with a sexy of Joan enclosed. His recruitment strategy works, and two of the best rowers in the nation join the Billings rowing program.


A Yank at Oxford [1936]

The Billings University rowing coach set a rigorous practice schedule and insists that his rowers lead disciplined lives (no girls and no fun) so that they will be successful on the water and ensure he keeps his coaching job. But the hormones rule supreme, and seductive blonde co-ed Joan repeatedly pulls the oarsmen away from practice. In an attempt to recruit rowers form other universities, Coach Hammond sends them letters with a sexy of Joan enclosed. His recruitment strategy works, and two of the best rowers in the nation join the Billings rowing program.

Starring Vivien Leigh and Lionel Barrymore. Lee Sheridan, a cocky American with a scholarship to attend Oxford University, annoys students when he brags about his athletic accomplishments. After a rocky tenure on the track team, Lee joins Oxford University Boat Club, where among plenty of personal drama, he eventually finds success in a winning line-up at The Boat Race. This movie was parodied by Laurel and Hardy in A Chump at Oxford (1940) and remade as Oxford Blues (1984).


Three Men in a Boat [1933, 1956, and 1975]

The comic novel by Jerome K. Jerome has been made into a film three times: in 1933, 1956, and for television in 1975 when it starred Tim Curry. Critics received the original book (first edition 1889) with lukewarm hostility, proclaiming Jerome’s use of slang as “vulgar.” They felt the book was written to appeal to “‘Arrys and ‘Arriets” – contemporary pejoratives used to describe the working class Londoners who dropped their Hs when speaking.
Rowing pursuits might complain that this film is truly about rowing, since the three main characters – gentlemen from London – take a two-week touring holiday on the Thames in a camping skiff. Set in the 1880s, commercial boat traffic had ceased on the Upper Thames, and boating as a leisure activity was an all out craze. The trio of travelers manage to cross in front of racing shells during Henley Regatta causing a pile up, and forcing one crew up onto the bank into the spectators.


Oxford Blues [1984]

Watch the trailer

Starring Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy and Cary Elwes. In a remake of the 1938 A Yank at Oxford, Nick Di Angelo (Rob Lowe) works at a Las Vegas casino to earn enough money to follow the woman of his dreams to Oxford, England. In order to win her heart, he joins the rowing team and eventually ends up stroke seat for the Bluejackets VIII. Spoiler alert: in the final scene while rowing against Harvard, Lowe’s gate pops open. He simply puts his oar back in the oarlock and they go on to victory, of course!


Hey Babu Riba [1986. Also released as Dancing in Water]

Thirty years ago, four teenagers rowed together with a coxswain named Miriana. When the men gather for a sad reunion at Mariana’s funeral, they are stunned to find out that Miriana’s surviving daughter was possibly fathered by one of them. But who? While solving the mystery, the movie presents a portrait of Yugoslavian teenagers growing up in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when socialist dogma was high and rock n’roll was just starting to invade pop culture.


The Boy in Blue [1986]

Nicholas Cage stars as Ned Hanlan, the late-19th century Canadian sculler and world champion. Hanlan was one of the first scullers to successfully utilize the “sliding seat.” A wild, uncontrollable youth, Ned Hanlan is adopted by a gambler named Bill, who promotes the boy on the sculling circuit for his own monetary gain. A businessman named Knox assumes control of Hanlan’s career, but when Ned discovers just how ruthless Knox can be, he casts his lot with the first honest man he has met, inventor-speculator Walter. Hanlan’s professional success is capped by his marriage to Margaret, Knox’s previously unattainable niece.


Rowing Through [1996]

Starring Colin Ferguson. Loosely based on the book “The Amateurs” by David Halberstam, which documents the careers of four American scullers and their quests for Olympic gold.The movie focuses on Tiff Wood’s training in preparation for the 1980 Olympics, where he was a favorite to win gold. But President Jimmy Carter announces that the U.S. will boycotting the 1980 games in Moscow, after political tensions heat up between the United States and Russia. The movie follows Wood’s attempt to make the 1984 squad, beating out younger and stronger rowers. Reviews describe the movie as being beautifully shot, but the rowing is terrible. There are appearances from the real Tiff Wood, legendary coach Harry Parker, and Olympic rower Xeno Muller.


True Blue [1997. Rereleased as Miracle at Oxford in 2004]

(See trailer at top of post)

Starring Dominic West and Josh Lucas. At the 1986 Boat Race, Oxford suffered it’s first defeat by Cambridge in 11 years. Angry at the outcome, American Oxford oarsman Rick Ross imports all of his mates from the US National squad into Oxford as post-graduates so they can help redeem the Oxford program.
A power struggle over training methods and crew selection leads to a bitter clash between the American oarsmen and the Scottish president of the Oxford Dark Blues, Donald MacDonald. The Americans are so irate that they pull out just six weeks before the race, leaving Oxford’s coach to mould an inexperienced crew into a winning team.


Give it All [1998]

Set in Japan in the late 1970s, when student demonstrations led to the new generation being called “Age of Three Nothings” (giving nothing, caring for nothing, being moved by nothing), Give it All is the story of a Japanese schoolgirl named Etsuko. At 15, she is bored with school, ignored by her hard-working parents, and unlucky in dating. Etsuko commits to learning to row and bullies four other girls into forming a team to row at a big regatta in the Fall. They aren’t well-prepared and end up finishing last. Annoyed by another crew that calls them “princesses,” Etsuko’s crew decides to stay together and train for another year. They end up being coached by Masako Irio, a former all-Japan rowing star, who enforces a tough training regimen. The hard work pays off when they make it to the finals that year.

Released in just one small theater in September 1998, Give it All turned out to be such an identifiable story of teenage angst that is struck a deep chord in Japan. The five main characters were played by girls who had no acting or rowing experience, but all went on to win a variety of acting awards for their debut performances. Heroine Rena Tanaka took home 11 ‘best newcomer awards’, and the film won 39 awards, including for for direction, cinematography and sound.


Kimberly [1999. Rereleased as Daddy Who? in 2005]

Bittersweet romantic comedy starring Gabrielle Anwar, Molly Ringwald, and Sean Astin. Much of the movie is set on Boathouse Row and several rowers from Philadelphia appear, mostly cast as the ‘bad guys’ crew. The plot revolves around a crew in a men’s coxless 4, who time and again are beat by their rivals. They convince Kimberly (Gabrielle Anwar of Burn Notice acclaim) who is a rower and daughter of an Olympian, to be their coach and coxswain in preparation for the Kingsbury regatta. Along the way there’s plenty of dating and mixed emotions, and when Kimberly finds herself pregnant, the four rowers need to figure out how to help her and which one of them is the father!

 


My Brother’s Keeper [2004]

Starring Aaron and Shawn Ashmore. When a scout from Oakridge College see twin brothers Lou and Eric Woods at the Senior Rowing Championship, he offers Lou a scholarship. But it’s Eric that wants to go to college, so they  pull off a “case of mistaken identity” and Scott talks his way in to rowing at Oakridge. The brothers end up rowing with different pairs partners and face off at the National Championship.


Backwards [2012]

Fiercely competitive rower Abi Brooks (played by Sarah Megan Thomas) is 30 and has twice failed to make the Olympic squad. She takes a coaching job at a school and then struggles with life off the water, and an opportunity to row again.

X