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"Downhill Racer"

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

 It is on HBOFamily now. I'd love to see a remake of this classic. I couldn't imagine skiing at those speeds with that gear. 

post #2 of 45

There are some 'interesting' technical flaws regarding the equipment. Head was obviously a paying supporter of the film, Lange too I would guess.


I saw the film when it first came out in 69 or 70. It's entertaining still to me, despite the lack of technical guidance. It always amazes me how many movies fail in this respect. How hard is it to get an 'expert' in the topic on hand as a film adviser

post #3 of 45

I actually own this movie.  When it came out I had just started skiing and I found it thrilling.  Now, of course, the protective equipment they had and the lack of safety on the courses sort of appalls me.

post #4 of 45

Has anyone told Richie that Redford skied Head in this movie?

post #5 of 45
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

I actually own this movie.  When it came out I had just started skiing and I found it thrilling.  Now, of course, the protective equipment they had and the lack of safety on the courses sort of appalls me.

Look at the safety of autoracing from that timeframe..or hell everything. ;) How many times did you ride on the back of the family station wagon or sleep on the rear dash of the family sedan? Seetbelts...schmeetbelts. 

post #6 of 45

Yeah, it is one of my all time favorites. I own it on VHS and am always looking to find it on DVD.


A GREAT flick

post #7 of 45
Originally Posted by Philpug View Post
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

I actually own this movie.  When it came out I had just started skiing and I found it thrilling.  Now, of course, the protective equipment they had and the lack of safety on the courses sort of appalls me.

Look at the safety of autoracing from that timeframe..or hell everything. ;) How many times did you ride on the back of the family station wagon or sleep on the rear dash of the family sedan? Seetbelts...schmeetbelts. 


Actually, from the moment they first made an appearance, I used the seatbelts, because it made me feel cool like I was in a race car or something.  And my dad was a grad of a military academy and didn't tolerate things like sleeping where it blocked his rear view mirror.

post #8 of 45

So if they do a remake of this who would be better inspiration to model the storyline revisions after..


Bill Johnson





post #9 of 45
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

So if they do a remake of this who would be better inspiration to model the storyline revisions after..


Bill Johnson





Bob Peters...duh!!!!!!

post #10 of 45
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post

So if they do a remake of this who would be better inspiration to model the storyline revisions after..


Bill Johnson





Bode. Billy Johnson already had a movie made about him, starring Anthony Edwards. 

post #11 of 45

These are a  classic EPIC/TGR responeces. Just watch the movie and enjoy for the period of its time. Like everyting of the '70s, its then.....not now.

post #12 of 45
Big Bump!!!!

Downhill racer is now out on DVD, I watched last night for the first time since it's opening in theatres...I guess that dates me! I am not a big fan of movies, but I really enjoyed this on many levels...some of the cinematography is superb, Gene Hackman does a great job....I love him smoking in front of the US Olympic committee, and I have to think that when this film was introduced downhill skiing in North America was probably close to it's zenith in popularity. This was a golden time for skiing.

Some of the themes in this movie are echoed is two other movies of the period: Frankenheimer's Grand Prix (1966) and McQueen's Le Mans (1971)...the slightly unruly and uncouth American against the European establishment....


And then there is the lovely Eurobabe Camilla Sparv, Redford's interest....what more can I say:

Actually I can one more thing....Long Skis Rule...I lusted after a pair of Head Downhills, alas I had to be content with 320E's! Just like F1 drivers from the 50's, 60's and 70's, these guys (and gals) who skied 210's or 220's (or longer) on those courses had Guts....

post #13 of 45
The skiing is pretty authentic and accurate. Just YouTube any of the Olympic DHs of the era. It is amazing what they were skiing on, the conditions and the lack of protection.

The continuity issues are kind of entertaining:
  • bindings change from Tyrolias in the 'behind the start gate' shot to what is worn in the start,
  • skis change from red to black to red ... in the dual DH where Redford's teammate beats into the hay bales at the bridge,
  • Redford's goggles change from one style to another constantly

I don't really think anyone actually raced DHs on Bessers, either.

The movie was just 10 years before I finished ski racing the first time around. This film, and Klammer's Innsbruck Olympic run are standout memories for me. I look back at what I used and what was in use 5 - 10 years before that and am amazed at how fast things were changing back then. It is a great movie.

A book that parallels this in time, but is a non-fiction, is The 30,000-Mile Ski Race by Peter Miller that documents the winter of 1970-71 World Cup. The politics, the racers, the danger and the glory.
post #14 of 45
 I certainly could be wrong. But my recollection is that Dick Barrymore, in his book "Breaking Even", said that they used footage from actual downhill races for the movie. If that is right, it means the ski racing (with some obvious exceptions) is the real stuff.
post #15 of 45
It certainly wouldn't surprise me if it were real racers. I just watched it again a few weeks ago and I was amazed at the racing footage. I watched most of the interview with Redford and Ritchie's (the director) on the DVD but never heard one way or the other about the racing footage.
post #16 of 45
I became curious about the racing footage when this was on cable a few weeks back, and discovered this:

Joe Jay Jalbert
Lifetime Achievement Award in Film

Joe Jay Jalbert’s film career began with a lucky break. After graduating from Washington University, he was picked by Robert Redford to double for him in racing sequences for Downhill Racer and ended up filming close-up action sequences used in the final film by carrying a hand-held camera at full speed. It was an extraordinary start in the filmmaking business for a young fellow from Mullan, Idaho (pop. 800) whose high point in life had been racing head-to-head against Billy Kidd and Jimmy Heuga for berths on the U.S. national ski team.

Joe Jay had begun racing at age eight, competing in regionals while his parents held multiple jobs to meet the expenses of packing three kids around to races all over the Northwest. His parents did whatever was needed to keep Joe Jay and his two sisters racing for junior glory. Joe Jay credits his father (a working miner), and mother as “the life blood that made this all happen.” Joe Jay soon stood at the top in his age group and stayed there, all while becoming valedictorian of his high school class. He was that rare phenomenon, a scholar-athlete.

He was a good bet to medal in all three events of the 1962 and 1963 Junior Nationals—but prior injuries took him out both times. Joe Jay entered the University of Washington in Seattle where his academic and athletic scholarships financed his entire college education. He captained the UW team that took the 1966 NCAA alpine championship. At the U.S. Nationals on Crystal Mountain that year, Joe Jay won the national alpine combined title.

Nationally he was ranked fourth in downhill—but Coach Bob Beattie took only the three top-ranked downhillers to the 1966 Grenoble Olympics. It was a disappointment that tore at the heart.
Then—out of the blue—Robert Redford’s New York lawyer called him.

Joe Jay’s hometown friend, Jim Barrier, had gone from the U.S. team to Head Skis— and Head was advising Redford’s Wildwood Productions during the preliminaries for Downhill Racer. Within a week, Joe Jay was on the plane to Los Angeles (wearing the only suit and tie he had) to meet Redford and his film director Michael Ritchie. They were impressed, and offered Joe Jay what was to him a magnificent contract to give technical advice to the second unit action filming and to double for Redford on the racecourse; he was also cast as Tommy Erb, the Redford archrival: it was a triple role. Joe Jay added a fourth, this one critical to his future.

He proved himself capable of the unexpected when he showed Ritchie that he could carry the camera right behind racers at full speed, filming point-of-view action while pointing with a steady hand a fifty pound camera in an all-out schuss: he had won himself a substantial chunk of the actual shooting. “I did point-of-view hand-held shots at all the major European downhill races,” says Joe Jay. “I heard top French racers of those days agreeing that ‘This U.S. boy, Jalbert, he is crazy.’ ” He and Redford spent an entire season following the international alpine circuit from Wengen to Mégeve to Kitzbühel, stocking up on needed background shots and setting up crash sequences. It was a splendid winter.

Paramount, the producing partner, decided that Joe Jay’s strong personality made him the perfect emissary to send off on an 18-city press junket to promote Downhill Racer at TV talk shows and public events. The film premiered in Reno in late fall 1969—a great success for Redford, a life-changing experience for Joe Jay. He had been given a superb crash course (as it were) in filmmaking from some of the most professional filmmakers in the world. Joe Jay put the experience to quick use, filming, editing and producing a Redford-sponsored travelogue for the state of Utah in 1971.” This is truly when I became a filmmaker,” Joe Jay says.

“I then began to knock on doors in New York. Downhill Racer certainly opened a lot of doors. I figured out how to run through them. I was soon doing my own 16mm film projects, shooting segments for a variety of producers. Then, I basically decided to make whole movies. I started in a meager cubbyhole in back of the film archive, stacks of film reels at 1600 Broadway, and started producing films for ski industry clients.

“I did mostly ski-racing movies, and started building my reputation and library.” In 1972 he was primary skiing cinematographer and stunt double for Disney’s Snowball Express starring Dean Jones; in 1973, Between Chaos and Beauty, a documentary on freestyle; in 1976, Just A Matter of Time, on the Innsbruck Olympics, won best film in Jerry Simon's Ski Film Festival. In 1980, he produced the Lake Placid Olympics official film. From 1978 to 1985, he produced more than a hundred sports action ski films, events and documentaries for CBS, NBC, and ABC in addition to ski films for the industry. Now it was time for him to extend his reach.

“In 1986 after spending 14 years producing shows for other people to distribute, I decided I must figure out how to distribute my own product. I produced Ski Magazine’s America’s Golden Ski Anniversary, shot at Sun Valley during the celebration. We sold the show to sponsors, and I hired a person to syndicate the show to TV stations around the U.S.”

Today at JPI his staff in the full-service film production and distribution facility on Long Island numbers 15 animation artists, film editors, producers, writers and syndication salesmen. His daughter Jolie and son Jay work for JPI as writer-directors. His wife is secretary-treasurer. “Today,” Joe Jay says, “we film only in true high definition and have become a leader in high-end sports documentary production.”

By 1987, he had considerably broadened his work on subjects outside skiing—but by then he had produced three Olympic Winter Games official films —in 1980, 1984, and 1992; nine official Alpine World Ski Championships from 1978 to 1997; four Nordic World Championship official films from 1988 to 1989. In 2000, Joe Jay was named by the Fédération Internationale de Ski as the “International TV Journalist/TV Producer of the Year,” an award given less than a half dozen times. His latest ski film is King of Speed, the Daron Rahlves Story, an hour-long documentary showing this season on network TV.

Joe Jay Jalbert has produced more ski films (TV sports films included) than anyone else in history. In the process, he has added so much splendid, topflight, professionally made film to the historical record of the sport that it is almost understatement to say that Joe Jay richly deserves the 2007 ISHA Lifetime Achievement Film Award. http://www.skiinghistory.org/awards2007.html

post #17 of 45
Now, look at the conditions.  Pretty "spring" like cement in many of the shots and the rest of the course prep .. 

Wasn't the Austrian Army called out to stomp snow for race prep .... and .... that is the way we actually did "set" the snow before the gates were put down ..... side step the whole "course".
post #18 of 45
You're the one who would know.
How different was a downhill ski then. They are and were straight and narrow. They are and were metal and wood sandwich construction, they are and were heavy and stiff. They were pretty fast boards. What are the main differences?

How did recorded top speeds evolve from the 60s to now, say at Kitzebuhl? 

Other factors exist of course: boots, wax, clothing, helmets, aerodynamics in general, technique I'd imagine.

Originally Posted by Philpug View Post

...... I couldn't imagine skiing at those speeds with that gear. 

post #19 of 45
Think that the differences in the boots are as major as anything in DH.  The skis are better, but the boots are just a world apart.
Agree the technique has not changed all that much,but what the racers are capable of is a far better. 
post #20 of 45
Course conditions are the biggest difference with boots as probably the most dramatic equipment change. Skis back then were running flat, untextured bases and were no where near as fast as now.

Look at the track they ski now. Injected, hard, smooth. Back then the track was natural and very lumpy and rutty to say the least.

Boots were pretty low in 1968/69. The integrated high back was not known yet.

The radius of a modern DH is 49+m. Back then they were more like 60 or 70. I don't have my old DHs at hand to measure so I'm guessing.

Look at the protection. Today there are A-net, B-nets, Willie Bags, cushions padding and so on. Back then hay bales and wood and metal snow fencing were state of the art. Hay bales froze solid and may as well have been blocks of ice. Wood and metal wire snow fencing. Think guillotine.

If you took a racer on the old gear and put him on a modern version of  the Hannenkahm, he wouldn't likely make it and if he did, his time would be so far off as to be laughable. There really is no comparison between back then and today.

Conversely, do you think that any of the times that are turned in now could be achieved the course condition was like it was 40 years ago? Imagine Birds of Prey with 3 - 4 inch deep soft ruts, loose snow and highly variable surface conditions. And those would be good conditions. You wouldn't know when the snow was going to punch through. You'd be tossed around like a rag doll because of the lack of a perfectly smooth surface, even with the new gear.

1976 Olympics

1968 Olympics

and 2008 Kitz
Edited by MastersRacer - 11/29/09 at 2:19pm
post #21 of 45
I made a DVD the last time it was on a movie channel.  I love the part near the end  with the yard sale where the guy's ski comes down and sticks in the snow pointing straight up.  There is no way they could have planned and executed that result in those days.  Great shot!
post #22 of 45
I have had Downhill Racer in my "que" even though it wasn't available since I've had Netflix, at least 8 years. Imagine my surprise when I was looking through my que recently and found it WAS NOW AVAILABLE!

YAHOO! It is also in HD and Surround Sound 5.1 Dolby Digital!!

Perfect for just before the Olympics!!
post #23 of 45
 Nice Bump!  Its amazing to see the footage of different Olympic eras while hearing about Olympic weather and safety are being discussed in the media.
post #24 of 45
A minor aside relating to Olympics and weather. We just had a pair of SG races at Buttermilk on Skier's edge for Rocky Mountain Masters. The clouds came in and halfway through the second race we had to pull the plug on it. Visibility was about 100m and with the old guys (old eyes), on natural snow (no man made on Racer's Edge) it was the only sensible thing to do.

I love the movie. The good old days when protection was hay bales and the snow was all nat'.
post #25 of 45
 Check out the Biography of Steven Nyman
According to reporters he mowed Redfords lawn to make money growing up.
Edited by Trekchick - 2/16/10 at 9:59am
post #26 of 45

Jeremiah Johnson was my Mom's favorite film - she loved the story and the wide open spaces. I recently got a hankerin' to see it again, and watched it the other night on Amazon Prime. It holds up well, still a great film as far as I'm concerned, and a lot of it is set in the magnificent Rockies in the snowy winter time. Redford is really terrific in it as well, and so it's only natural to break out the VHS and watch Downhill Racer again. It's time. Probably tonight.


Now off on a little tangent...


I IMDB'd Camilla Sparv, Redford's Euro love interest in DR, to see what else she had been in, and there in her filmography was Mackenna's Gold. Ah, now that brought back a very nice memory of Julie Newmar as a wild Indian warrior woman! That in turn led to youtube in search of Julie Newmar clips, which led to this...



All things considered growing up in the 60's was pretty, pretty good!   ;-)


Moving back toward the thread topic I'm looking forward to seeing Redford in All Is Lost. He

may be a little worn on the outside, but at 77 he's still going strong! Damn good role model!

post #27 of 45

post #28 of 45

That ^^^ must have been the American International version. ( Actually I see the "Bantam" on there. ;-)


Can't make out the autograph sig, though. Little help, please?

post #29 of 45
Originally Posted by jc-ski View Post

That ^^^ must have been the American International version. ( Actually I see the "Bantam" on there. ;-)


Can't make out the autograph sig, though. Little help, please?

Oakley Hall. Here's his bio and you'll see the connection to Squaw Valley. As Dr Gaffney wrote, Squaw Valley is the centre of the universe.


His books focus primarily on the historical American West. His most famous book, Warlock, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1958.[1] The film adaptation of the same title was directed by Edward Dmytryk. In Thomas Pynchon's introduction to Richard Fariña's Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, Pynchon stated that he and Fariña started a "micro-cult" around Warlock. Another novel, The Downhill Racers was made into a film starring Robert Redford in 1969.[5]

After the death of Wallace Stegner, Hall was considered the dean of West Coast writers, having supported the early careers of California novelists such as Richard Ford and Michael Chabon, both graduates of the well-known writing program at the University of California, Irvine where Hall taught for many years, and Amy Tan, his student from The Squaw Valley Community of Writers.[2] Hall's colleagues at Irvine included Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and fellow Iowa graduate Charles Wright and poet and Victorian Scholar Robert Peters. San Diego—and Hall's one-time San Diego neighborhood of Mission Hills—serve as focal points of two novels: "Corpus of Joe Bailey" and his 2007 novel "Love & War in California."

Oakley Hall was married to Barbara Edinger Hall, a professional photographer, in 1944, and they were married for 64 years. They had four children, Brett Hall Jones, director of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the writers’ conference that Oakley Hall helped found in 1969; Sands Hall, an accomplished teacher and novelist (Catching Heaven, 2000, and Tools of the Writer’s Craft, 2005); Tracy, a school teacher; and Oakley Hall III, known as “Tad,” a son and the author of the play, Grinder’s Stand, whose tragic fall from a bridge and the brain damage suffered from this fall are documented in the film The Loss of Nameless Things (filmmaker Bill Rose).[3]

Hall died May 12, 2008, in Nevada City, California.[2] Among his many honors are lifetime achievement awards from the PEN American Center and the Cowboy Hall of Fame. He was also the father of the playwright Oakley "Tad" Hall III [4] and writer, actor and director Sands Hall.[2]

post #30 of 45

I remember watching the DVD commentary for Downhill Racer, and Redford and James Salter discussing the development of the story, but don't recall it being based on a preexisting novel. (Not saying they didn't mention that, just that I don't recall.)


In any event this Oakley Hall seems to have been a pretty interesting fella. I found a used paperback copy of The Downhill Racers online, and just ordered. Will make a good read this winter.   ;-)



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