Downhill Racer (1969)
Quietly cocky Robert Redford joins U.S. ski team as downhill racer and clashes with the team's coach, played by Gene Hackman. Lots of good skiing action leading to an exciting climax.
David Chappellet is a mean-spirited skier, who profits from another skier's injury to gain a spot on the American Olympic team. His roommate sums up his goals when he observes of David, "He's not for the team, and he never will be"; but precisely who the David is that David is so fiendishly striving for we're never to learn. He develops a short-lived relationship with Carole Stahl, a glamorous European woman even more capricious than himself. Chappellet's identity trouble are exacerbated by the fact that he is an "Event" as well as a personality; and more astute minds than his own have difficulty where the one leaves off and the other takes over. Director Michael Richie's ("The Candidate") feature film debut.
From the small rural community of Idaho Springs, Colorado, Dave Chappellet has just joined the US men's downhill ski team, which has little respect from the traditional powerhouses from Europe as the US only has one seeded skier, Johnny Creech. Dave believes the team's head coach, Claire, is not looking after his best interest, such as not fighting to get him higher start numbers in races. Regardless of this and other external obstacles which Dave believes are the only things between him and the podium, he is able to achieve skiing success which leads to eventually being among that first seed with Johnny. Although Dave does ultimately win races, he DNF just as many, as he has an all or nothing approach. Conversely, Claire has a love/hate relationship with Dave, who he knows is talented and winning races will ultimately bring in much needed funding to the team as a whole, but his self-absorbed and arrogant attitude has alienated himself from the rest of the team and created team disharmony. Dave's attitude is borne out of his distant relationship with his farmer father, who does not understand why Dave is not pursuing a paying job, and an inferiority complex growing up without money like his teammates. That arrogance is also demonstrated in his personal life, in how he treats Lena, his girl back home, and how he pursues Carole Stahl, an employee of ski manufacturer Machet, who is wooing the American ski team to use his skis. Two years in Dave's journey is shown, chasing the ultimate prize of the gold medal in the men's downhill at the next Olympics.
- Comments by Actor / Writer Roy C. Peterson
This is a skier's movie. I only wish there were more ski movies. I've seen this one many times and enjoy it every time. Robert Redford did all his own skiing for this and must be especially fond and proud of this particular film.
The character Redford plays, David Chappellet, is a very bleak and grimly determined individual (Remember Bruno in The Blue Max?) When David goes home to visit his father we see where he got his emotional approach to living. Their conversations are so minimalist as to be nearly autistic. From their viewpoint probably just seen as practical minded and verbally economical. But I don't care what anybody says. There was something I liked about this character and found myself rooting for him. I was happy when he won at the end. What else would there have been to this story if he hadn't won? To love your work and to never betray it, whatever else happens, is one of the greatest gifts that life can give.