The story of the fastest man in the world and the philanthropy of one of the fastest food delivery restaurants in the world teamed up to bring the movie Race to the Detroit metro audience this week.
It seemed only right since Owens lived in Detroit in the 1940s and worked for Ford Motor Co.
McDonald’s cooked up a groundswell of attention with an exclusive preview screenings of Focus Features’ Race, the biopic about gold medal champion Jesse Owens, to five theaters across the country.
In Detroit, Savarior Service, owner of 17 McDonald’s restaurants in the city and suburbs and president of the Black McDonald’s Owners Association, welcomed more than 200 guests to the Star Southfield for a free showing the stores sponsored. The film opens this weekend to the public.
“McDonald’s is deeply rooted in our community,” he says. “It’s important for us to celebrate the stories of achievement to showcase our achievements not only during Black History Month, but 365 days a year. To be sure, Owens is a super star in black sports legacy.”
Based on the true story of Owens, the athlete from Ohio State University who became the greatest track and field competitor in history, it is also the film about courage, determination, tolerance and friendship.
The biopic stars Stephan James as Jesse Owens and features Jeremy Irons and William Hurt in the drama of the 1936 Berlin Olympics where Owens captured four gold medals to the chagrin of Hitler and his Aryan ambitions. The Nazi-leader refused to shake the winner’s hand.
Race doesn’t go easy on the discrimination of the times. Perhaps the most anguishing moments came at the victory party for the U.S. Olympic team at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Owens and his wife were forced to use the back door and walk through the kitchen, up the freight elevator to the ballroom where the celebration was held.
McDonald’s is distributing a 12-month calendar in its urban stores with the face of Franklin playing Jesse Owens. On preview night the restaurants gave way McDonald’s t-shirts to several people who won the trivia contest based on the achievements of this outstanding man.
Local historian and author Ken Coleman wrote in the Michigan Chronicle that Owens lived at 18561 Binder Street in the Conant Gardens community in the 1940s while working for Ford as director of minority employment. He also traveled the country to track events to encourage young racing stars and he campaigned on behalf of Republican candidates.
Another chunk of Michigan history was his landmark performance in 1935 at the track and field championships. He turned spectators around on their toes when he set or tied world records in the 100 yard dash, the long jump and the 220-yard run.
Throughout the world he became known as the fastest man in history with the Berlin Olympics being the capstone. He came home with four gold medals. He was still young enough to compete in the next two Olympics but they were cancelled as World War II raged onward.
“If I could just win those gold medals, I said to myself, the Hitlers of the world would have no more meaning for me. For anyone, maybe,” Owens wrote in I Have Changed.
Race is playing at numerous theaters in metro Detroit. Check out the listings.