Jesse Owens’ daughter cried watching ‘Race’ film ending

Jesse Owens
AP
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Marlene Owens Rankin said she was brought to tears watching the final scene of “Race,” the film about her father, 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens.

“It’s just being a spectator of your own life,” Rankin, the second of Owens’ three daughters who was born in 1937, said in a phone interview last week. “There were experiences that he had that were very demeaning and hard for him. It’s just hard to watch something where someone you love is suffering.”

“Race,” which chronicles Owens’ four gold-medal performance in front of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany as well as the prejudice he faced in the U.S., hits theaters Feb. 19. Watch a trailer here.

Owens’ three daughters were first contacted about the film five years ago and had script approval.

“We encourage school-age children to learn and know the story,” Rankin said. “There are a number of important messages that could benefit them.”

Beverly Owens Prather, the youngest daughter of Jesse and wife Ruth Owens born in 1940, agreed that the film’s ending after the Berlin Games was the hardest part to watch.

“I could accept the ending, but just to see it happen was just kind of touching,” she said.

Rankin, Prather and Owens’ oldest daughter, Gloria Owens Hemphill, all visited Berlin during filming. They first flew to the German capital more than three decades ago, when a street outside the renovated Olympic Stadium was named after Owens.

“It’s just so impressive,” Prather said of touring the Berlin stadium, where there is a lounge dedicated to Owens. “It makes you feel so good.”

Rankin and Prather also lauded the performance of Stephan James, who played Owens in “Race.”

“Outstanding,” Prather said. “The time that he took and the steps that he took to learn about daddy on his own were just remarkable.”

Q&A: Stephan James discusses playing Owens in ‘Race’