Jesse Owens went to the Olympics in the summer of 1936 in Berlin, Germany. There he made history and won four gold medals. PBS’s series American Experience will honor Owens with a 1-hour look at his life and Olympic career. The Kansas City Star reports:
LOS ANGELES — The Olympics are (almost) back, and it’s a good time to sing again the ballad of Jesse Owens, the black American track star who put the lie to Adolf Hitler’s master-race malarkey at the 1936 Summer Olympics by winning four gold medals. (It’s never not a good time to sing that song, of course.) “Jesse Owens,” premiering Tuesday on PBS as part of the series “American Experience,” is the latest work to take up that inspiring tune.
Written by Stanley Nelson, directed by Laurens Grant (“Freedom Riders”) and narrated by Andre Braugher, whose voice is always pleasing to hear, the hour long film is necessarily a streamlined, simplified version of the life. Concentrating on Owens’ Olympic adventure, with testimony from family, friends, teammates, spectators and scholars, it provides enough background and aftermath to give the story shape and movement, even as it suggests questions for further films to answer.
Owens, who once recalled the feeling that running could take you anywhere “on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs,” was only one of 18 African American Olympians who traveled to Berlin in 1936, but he was already a star attraction. The year before at the Big Ten Conference Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich., in what is still regarded as one of the great days in sports history, he set three world records (including a long jump mark that stood for 25 years) and tied a fourth in the space of 45 minutes, all with an injured back.
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