The Boy In Blue
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Christopher Plummer, David Naughton, Cynthia Dale
Director: Charles Jarrott
Year of release: 1986
Country: Canada
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  • Plot summary
    Based on a true story, the Boy in Blue stars a very young, athletic Nicholas Cage in the role of Canadian bootlegger, Ned Hanlan, who turned into a legendary world class rower.

    Discovered by an amateur oarsman named Bill, Ned manages to get his paws on the first ever sliding seat sculling boat, and is propelled to fame when he wins a race on the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, beating his American opponent Plaistad. His win is a total upset, and brings Ned under the scrutiny of a wealthy man named Knox who plans to make lots of money from placing bets on Hanlan.

    Knox, makes Bill an offer he can't refuse, then takes over Ned's future and gets him a professional trainer in order to prepare him for major races. In the meantime, Ned and Margaret, Knox's niece, begin a flirtation that ultimately turns into an excuse for Cage to get nekkid... er, to fall in love...

    When Ned finally gets an opportunity to race against the Australian world champion, Trickett, an arrogant, cocky, gobby type (i.e. typical australian), they get into a bit of a barney; Hanlan rows into Trickett's scull and knocks him in - as a result of which he is banned from racing for life in the United States.

    A chastened Ned, returns home and turns to Walter to train him so that he can enter and race in England at the world championships on the Thames and vindicate himself.

    When the time for the race finally comes, his old friend is bribed to loosen a bolt under one of the pins on his boat (well you've got to have gate problems in rowing movies), so during the race Hanlan gets into trouble but his friend, feeling guilty, jumps in and swims over to hand him a spanner.

    Hanlan amazingly (like you didn't see it coming) goes on to win.

    Rowing info
    Ned Hanlon may have been a Canadian hero in his time, but truth is the man was, well, a bit of a asshole. The real story of his race against Trickett on the Tideway is more entertaining than anything the movie portrays, if slightly less believeable (one case where truth really is stranger than fiction). If you want to know what really went on, there's a great summary on www.rowinghistory.net/professionals.htm at the end (last section of dark red text).

    What you must remember is that Hanlon was racing with slides against Trickett in a fixed seat boat and was using this unbeatable advantage to torture his opponent as much as he could - it's surprising Trickett didn't punch him really... note Hanlan was 5 8"-150 lb and Trickett was 6 5"-195 lb.

    Anyway, back to the film version... Nicholas Cage does all his own sculling in the movie, and to be fair he's not actually that bad (well, compared to other actors technique). Cage, however, does have the "elite male sculler" act down to a treat and keeps removing his clothing in front of any watching women at the least provication.

    As well as the traditional "gate incident" the film also features an "instrument of torture" rowing machine which is rather larger than your average concept2 (see images above).

    Depite being set in philly and the UK, the rowing was filmed at several locations (St. Catherines, Bracebridge and Smiths Falls) in Ontario during 1984.

    The shells that were used were Hudsons retro fitted with clogs and wooden-wheeled seats, six of them were used for the movie.

    For those sweep fanatics amongst you, there is some footage of a coxed four near the start, but that's about it for crew boats.

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