Personal Best (film)
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|Directed by||Robert Towne|
|Produced by||Robert Towne|
|Written by||Robert Towne|
|Music by||Jill Fraser
|Edited by||Jacqueline Cambas
Bud S. Smith
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|February 5, 1982|
Personal Best is a 1982 movie centered on a group of women trying to qualify for the American track-and-field team bound for the 1980 Olympic Games. Despite their commitment to their training regimen, their dreams are thwarted when the United States announces its boycott of the Games for political reasons, leaving them with only the informal "personal best" marks they achieved during training to connote their achievements.
The film was praised by critics for providing a realistic look at the world of women's athletics, for exploring the complex relationships that can exist among teammates and their coach, and for its sensitive portrayal of the relationship between an older lesbian (Donnelly) and a younger bisexual woman (Hemingway). Despite good reviews, it flopped at the box-office.
Many of the scenes were filmed in San Luis Obispo County. While the sign on the track said "Cal Poly", which is a university in San Luis Obispo, it was filmed at the track at Morro Bay High School. There are also two scenes filmed at restaurants in downtown San Luis Obispo; the Cigar Factory and 1865. Filming locations in Eugene, Oregon, included Hayward Field and the nearby Track Town Pizza restaurant.
Chris Cahill is a young athlete who competes unsuccessfully in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. She meets a more experienced track and field competitor, Tory Skinner, and their friendship evolves into a romantic relationship.
Tory gives tips to Chris on how to improve as she trains for a shot at the 1980 Olympic team in the pentathlon, but their coach, Terry Tinghoff, insists on being the only one whose advice Chris follows. Anger and jealousy develop, more so when Chris begins a heterosexual relationship with Denny Stites, a swimmer.
Many elite track and field athletes of the day played in the film, including:
- Evelyn Ashford- 4 Gold medals and a Silver Medal in Olympic Games
- Jodi Anderson
- Maren Seidler
- Martha Watson
- Emily Dole
- Pam Spencer
- Deby LaPlante
- Mitzi McMillin-1974 U.S. Champion in Pentathlon
- Jan Glotzer-1970 National High School record holder 110 yard hurdles
- Jan Van Reenen
- Al Feuerbach
- Jane Frederick
- Cindy Gilbert-1972 U.S. Olympian High Jump
- Marlene Harmon-1983 World Championships Heptathlon, married Larry Wilcox
- Linda Waltman-1980 U.S. Team for boycotted Olympics Pentathlon
- Cindy Banks-Pentathlete/Heptathlete from Santa Barbara
- Milan Tiff
- Earl Bell
- Frank Shorter
- Jim Tracy-coach, whose battle with ALS is documented in the film Running for Jim
- Sharon Brazell
- Susan Brownell-heptathlete
- Desiree Gauthier-heptathlete
- Sharon Hatfield-1980 and 1982 U.S. Junior Champion in Pentathlon/Heptathlon
- Linda Hightower-heptathlete with Oregon Track Club
- Joan Russell-heptathlete from UCSB
- Themis Zambrzycki-1980 US champion heptathlete from BYU and Brazil, South American Junior medalist
- Clim Jackson-1975 ranked #3 in U.S. 110 metres hurdles
- John Smith
- Chuck DeBus-track coach banned for life in 1990 for giving athletes PEDs
- Robert Horn
- Charlie Jones Track and field announcer
- Len Dawson Pro Football announcer
References in popular culture
The lesbian relationship in the movie is referenced by Ross Geller in an episode of the fourth season of Friends. The lesbian relationship is also referenced in episode 10 of the first season of American Dad!, and in the 1997 Ellen episode "The Puppy Episode".
The film was noted for its physicality and forthright treatment of sensitive emotional issues. Roger Ebert gave it four of a possible four stars and wrote: "This is a very physical movie, one of the healthiest and sweatiest celebrations of physical exertion I can remember...It is filled with the uncertainties, risks, cares, and rewards of real life, and it considers its characters' hearts and minds, and sees their sexuality as an expression of their true feelings for each other."