Rowing Films – Not That Hot!

Have you watched any good rowing films lately?

You haven’t? Well, to be honest, I am not surprised as there are very few around. It seems the sport of rowing is hard to make convincing on the big screen. Most of the rowing films come out funny (when they are not suppose to be). One of the first films with rowing in it – and it is made to be funny – is College (1927) with Buster Keaton. Some years later, in 1934, Hollywood made a daring move with Eight Girls in a Boat (to the right), which was a remake of a German film from 1932.

MGM’s first British production was A Yank at Oxford (1938) starring Robert Taylor as an American student at Oxford. Taylor strokes his college’s eight (to the left) at bump races and at the end of the film, Oxford’s boat in the Boat Race against Cambridge. Other famous stars, or stars to be, in this film were Maureen O’Sullivan (leaving Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan alone in the jungle) and Vivien Leigh (before her success with Gone With The Wind).

To watch Robert Taylor win the Boat Race, please go to: search for A Yank at Oxford (part 9).

In 1984, a terrible remake of A Yank at Oxford was done, Oxford Blues, with Rob Lowe. Please do not waste any time watching it.

It seems that making a documentary about rowing is easier to do than a fictional story. Although some of the worst ones are based on rowing “history” books, for example the film Rowing Through is based on the great book The Amateurs and the film True Blue is based on the book with the same title. (For some unknown reason True Blue was called Miracle at Oxford in America.)

If you are interested in a list of documentaries on and films about rowing, please click here.


  1. May I suggest the following French films:
    – Champions de France, by Willy Rozier, in 1938
    – Les Régates de San-Francisco, by Claude Autant-Lara, in 1959
    – Fair Play, by Lionel Bailliu, in 2005

    And a Finnish film where boating is featured :
    The international title is Blue Week, by Matti Kassila, in 1954, the Swedish title is Den Bla Veckan 😉

  2. Dear Hélène,
    Again, thank you very much for your contribution, this time to my film entry. I am ashamed to say that I have never heard of “Den Blå Veckan”!
    I take it, you are well aware of French literature and movies, so I will take the opportunity to ask you, if Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Fly” has ever been made into a French film? The latest rowing film I watched was “Daddy Who”, which is based on de Maupassant’s story. It was “très terrible”!

  3. yes, the short story “Fly” or “Mouche” was adapted by André Michel in 1952 in Trois Femmes. In 1992 (or 1991 ?) Marcel Carné started filming “Mouche” but because of financial problems, it was stopped. Rush can be seen in the documentary “Marcel Carné, ma vie à l'écran” (1994), by Jean-Denis Bonan, at

    By the way, have you seen a film made in Tchekoslovakia by Juraj Herz, the French title of which is “Les doux jeux de l'été passé” (TV) made in 1969 ? And Kimberly, directed by Frederic Golchan (USA, 1999) ? I haven't.

  4. Hélène – Thank you for your information about the French movies based on “Fly”/”Mouche”.

    No, I have not seen any of the movies you are mentioning, I am sorry to say.

  5. I really like A Yank in Oxford, despite the flimsy plot. Anything with Vivien Leigh in can't be all bad. I've linked to it with a couple more clips of rowing in the movies at

  6. Chris – I agree, “A Yank at Oxford” is a good rowing movie, and, as you rightly put it, a movie with Leigh (and O'Sullivan, too) can't be bad! By the way, is a great blog!

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