Follow TV Tropes


Film / It Happened in Athens

Go To

It Happened in Athens is a 1962 American-Greek romantic comedy-drama film directed by Andrew Marton. It is a highly fictionalized account of Spiridon Loues's marathon victory at the inaugural modern Olympic Games of 1896.

Spiridon Loues (Trax Colton) is living the simple life of a shepherd in rural Greece when he hears that, after many centuries, the Olympic Games have come back. Thus, he sets off for Athens, hoping for a chance at Olympic glory. Once there, he befriends Christina Gratos (Xenia Kalogeropoulou, credited as "Maria Xénia"), a Girl Next Door from his hometown. Christina works as a maid for Eleni Costa (Jayne Mansfield), a glamorous Greek actress who, for a publicity stunt, has declared that she will marry whoever wins the marathon. This is somewhat upsetting to her lover Lt. Alexi Vinardos (Nico Minardos), but she assures him that, of course, he will be winning the marathon anyway. Or will he?

This film provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: In the movie, the 1896 games include traditions that were only added to the modern Olympics later on, including the lighting of the Olympic flame, the Parade of Nations, and playing the national anthem of a winning athlete's country. Also, "The Star-Spangled Banner" didn't become the U.S. national anthem until 1931.
  • Artistic License – History: The movie continuously refers to the Olympics of 776 BC as though they were the last games of the Ancient Olympics. Of course, they were the first games of the Ancient Olympics. The last games were held in 393 AD.
  • Betty and Veronica: Christina and Eleni, respectively
  • Biopic: Denied by the This Is a Work of Fiction disclaimer: "This photoplay is not a biography of Spiridon Loues."
  • Canine Companion: Spiridon has one named Sophocles. His previous dog was named Plato. You know, 'cause he's Greek.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Spiridon's father initially doesn't want his son to waste his time with these silly Olympic dreams.
  • The Gay '90s: Set in 1896, of course.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with Stock Footage of the 1960 Olympics (the most recent at the time of filming) while a narrator explains the mission of the Olympic Games. The rest of the movie is framed as a Flashback explaining how the modern Olympics got started.
  • Meta Casting: Coach Graham, the leader of the American team, is played by two-time U.S. Olympian Bob Mathias.
  • Ms. Fanservice: There's a reason Jayne Mansfield takes up so much space on the poster pictured above.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Eleni Costa strips down to her underwear, including a corset, and it is in that state that she tries to seduce Spiridon. Sometimes, it's surprising what The Hays Code allowed!
  • Opposing Sports Team: An Averted Trope. The underdog Greek heroes desperately want to score a victory over the Americans, who really did win the most gold medalsnote  at the 1896 Olympics. The Americans are portrayed as a bit cocky, but ultimately prove sportsmanlike.
  • Stocking Filler: Eleni is also wearing these during the aforementioned seduction scene.
  • The Tease: Eleni clearly enjoys flirting alot, but it doesn't seem to be at all serious.
  • Translation Convention: Greeks and Americans both speak English, of course.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The movie's This Is a Work of Fiction disclaimer explicitly says that "all events except the marathon victory are fictional." They ain't lying.