October 10, 2010 by staff
Seabiscuit, A period filled with wars, politics, and other dramas, top and bottom – one that is flashed by the spring of 1973, when I found myself stuck directly against a fence infield at Churchill Downs by a crowd had made a leap forward for the 99th running of the Kentucky Derby. There was nothing between me and the finish line put a bit of wire and wood and a few feet in the air. When Secretariat thundered through, a fan sitting on the shoulders of someone behind me, lost his grip on a bucket of beer, which came down on my head.
For the umpteenth time, I regaled my nine years with this thread as we made our way to the Jewel in the Disney rendition of the saga Secretariat. Given advance notice, I was ready to be disappointed. But it turns out that “secretariat” is a wonderful film, a thread of inspiration, beautifully crafted, with just the right amount of corn. Moviegoers have been my line on the edge of their seats all the time. Me, I beat the air so hard that my daughter leaned over and hissed at last: “Dad, you already know who won.”
At this time Disney had it all wrapped up in history – the crisis of the firm loses money, grain Penny Chenery (played to perfection by Diane Lane) who took over when his parents died, the pressure on his marriage and his children the redemption of coach Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), the courage of battered jockey Ron Turcotte (played by Otto Thorwarth), and the grace of quasi-owner, Ogden Phipps (James Cromwell), which celebrates Secretariat lost on a coin go it alone with Mrs Chenery ensure his race for glory.
The way the story is told in the film takes the usual Hollywood license with the facts, even those where they are made in the book by Bill Nack, “Secretariat – The Making of a Champion”, which is based on the film. An examiner covers this for Tracksideview.com Ron Correll, who notes “most” drama “that took place in the film never happened.” He writes that the draw has been blown out its context and the details were incorrect with respect to the syndication rights of reproduction in the Secretariat.
Another commentator compares “Secretariat” unfavorable for the film “Seabiscuit,” a movie I also liked that horse. But it is hard to think of Seabiscuit in the same league as Secretariat. On a list of the top 10 horses of all time, Seabiscuit only gets an honorable mention, while the secretariat is listed as number one on most lists. The two horses may have raised our national spirit – Seabiscuit during the Depression and the Secretariat during Vietnam – but there is less political and a little more spiritual uplifting in the Disney movie.
The spiritual element of “Secretariat” begins with Penny Chenery reciting a passage from Job. For the climax of the Belmont, the director, Randall Wallace, a camera looking for the finish line backwards along the straight line that we expect the horses came into view of the world that last lap. Suddenly, all sounds are silenced. We’re looking at an empty track in total silence for what seems an eternity – I remembered the long wait for Tom Hanks to descend on radio silence in Apollo 13. Secretariat then bursts into view, rushing straight at you that silence is broken by the thunder of hooves and the rousing gospel song “Oh Happy Day.”
By my lights, it worked like a charm, highlighting even more of a drama marked the Belmont Stakes, which was already among the largest in sports history. Not that the real event lacked the drama, as seen in the clip above. The camera, panning across the entire track without depth of field, the race seems to follow. For a split second a huge American flag fluttering in the wind obscures Secretariat. Then, crackling over the loudspeakers, the race is called by Chick Anderson’s famous phrase:
“Secretariat is now taking the lead. He got it by about a length and a half. … It looks like it’s opening… Lead is increasing, are three, three and a half it moves through the turn… Secretariat held at the large lead… They are on the tower… Secretariat is blazing along, the first three quarters of a mile in one oh nine and four-fifths… Secretariat is widening now… it moves like a machine to the tree-MEN-dous… Secretariat by 12… Secretariat by 14 lengths on the turn… Secretariat is all alone…
“He went out there almost a sixteenth of a mile from the rest of the horses. Secretariat is in a position that it is impossible to catch… It is in the final straight…. Secretariat leads the field by 18 lengths… They are in the final straight…. Secretariat has opened a lead of 22 lengths. It will be… the… triple… crown… Win…. Here Secretariat to the wire, an incredible, an amazing performance, he hits the 25 lengths before finishing. ”
In fact, it was 31 lengths. What is the time for individuals are recorded in a series of interviews on the Internet. Jack Whitaker of CBS talks about people who start to cry. On the same clip George Plimpton recalls: “There were these students lining the rail. It seems hard to believe but I swear, half of them were crying on his way. “Heywood Hale Broun told that Jack Nicklaus told him how, when he looked at home, even the great golfer himself burst into tears. Someone pointed out that the reason is that it has been the impact to see perfection. And I must say that the movie version has lost none of the emotion that the person sitting behind me was eating popcorn and has not lost its grip on a bucket of beer.
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