Bert And Dickie Make The Small Screen

With the Olympic Games coming up next summer in London, the British media is buzzing with stories from the Games in 1908 and 1948, which were also held in London, and the Olympic rowing in Henley-on-Thames. At the 1948 Olympic regatta, Great Britain took two gold medals in the coxless pairs with Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson, and in the double sculls with Dickie Burnell (on the left) and Bert Bushnell. HTBS has written several pieces about these two pairs, and we have also shown some good, old news reels with these fine oarsmen. If you have missed any of these entries or films, following are the links: Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson & Dickie Burnell and Bert Bushnell.

For the upcoming Olympic year BBC One is working with 25 hours of drama that will somehow “connect with the hearts and lives of British people,” as Ben Stephenson, Controller of drama commissioning said in an interview the other week. He also stated that 2012 “will be a year of huge cultural significance”.

There is especially one 90-minute drama that will catch the eye of all rowing fans, Bert and Dickie, about Bushnell and Burnell who only practiced together six weeks before the Olympic races in Henley. Bert and Dickie is written by William Ivory (on the left), who is known in Britain for different TV-series, but also for the movie Made in Dagenham (2010). (Read more about Ivory here.)

As of this writing, only Matt Smith, who is staring in the British television series Doctor Who, has been picked to play Bert Bushnell, while nothing is known about who is going to portray Dickie Burnell. It is said that Smith once was a brilliant football player before he injured his back, but he knew nothing about rowing, so now he has to take lessons to learn how to scull.

To read what the Daily Mail wrote about Matt Smith playing Bert Bushnell, click here.

Filming Bert and Dickie is planned to begin in this month.

HTBS has been in contact with Bert Bushnell’s daughters, who in an e-mail say that they “are delighted the story of Bushnell and Burnell’s success at the 1948 Games will be told. The film will be a dramatisation of the Olympic story and the relationship between our father and Burnell, who had only teamed up a few weeks before winning Olympic gold in the double sculls”.

They go on to say that, “Dramatisations of real events are sometimes a little loose with the facts in the interests of audience expectation, but in any event the film should be good entertainment, especially as it is to be broadcast just before the opening of the London Olympics”.

Of course, I am thrilled that there is going to be a film about these two great oarsmen. Hopefully, it will be shown here in the U.S., too. Nowadays, films on DVDs come out rather quickly after it has been televised. As soon as I hear more about the production, the information will be up on HTBS.


  1. Two different characters working together for one purpose? It has been suggested that this is 'The King's Speech' in a double scull. There have been other filmatic couplings from our sport. Most recently there was Redgrave and Pinsent, the dyslexic from a state school and the vicar's son who attended Eton and Oxford. I suppose they got on too well to make real drama, though Redgrave developing diabetes in 1997 and still winning in 2000 is the the sort of thing beloved of Hollywood. Then there was Beresford and Southwood who won the double sculls at the 1936 Olympics. This is the story of two slightly old underdogs who came from a length down to pass the German favourites with 200 metres to go, while Hitler looked on. “The sweetest race I ever rowed” said Beresford. Freeze frame. Fade to black. Roll credits.

    Tim Koch.

  2. Very true, Tim! And, not to forget, Ran Laurie and Jack Wilson, who both 'disappeared' to Sudan after their studies at Cambridge. There are some good stories to tell about these two gentlemen in Africa. Of course, they had barely rowed and practiced at all when they got ready to race at the 1948 Olympic regatta in Henley. I wonder if they will be there in the background in “Bert and Dickie”?

  3. Goran,

    I'm doing a bit of research and wondered if you know or could take an educated guess at the heights (and if possible rowing weights) of the following rowers:
    Jack Wilson
    Ran Laurie
    Dickie Barney
    Bert Bushnell
    Hugh (Jumbo) Edwards
    Jack Beresford
    dick Southwood

    Many thanks


  4. I would agree knowing the story well about Jack Wilson. He was my Great Uncle and have heard the story about Sudan over many a family dinner prior to the win at the 1948 Olympics!

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