Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler's Siren and America's Heroby Terry Frei
Glenn Morris was
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Though not a member of the National Socialist Party, Leni Riefenstahl was the filmmaker darling of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. First a successful dancer and actress in Germany, she became more notorious when she produced and directed Victory of Faith and Triumph of the Will, the chilling documentaries about Nazi Party Congresses at Nuremberg.
Glenn Morris was an All-American farm boy from tiny Simla, Colorado, as well as a former college football star and student body president at the school now known as Colorado State University. At the 1936 Olympics, he won the decathlon, earning him the label “the world’s greatest athlete.” Among the American heroes at the Berlin Games, he was considered second only to Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals.
Riefenstahl and Morris: An unlikely couple? Perhaps, but in her 1987 memoirs, the German filmmaker belatedly confirmed she had an affair with the American athlete during the filming of Olympia, Riefenstahl’s documentary about the Berlin Games. In fact, she portrayed it as much more than a dalliance, saying that she had dreamed of marrying Morris and that he broke her heart. Morris, who went on to Hollywood, the National Football League, and military service, spoke sparingly of the relationship, but mused late in life that he “should have stayed in Germany with Leni.”
In Olympic Affair, author Terry Frei turns to historical fiction in a novel researched in much the same fashion as his widely praised works of nonfiction, including Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming and Third Down and a War to Go. Using deduction, imagination and narrative skill to augment documented fact (as well as debunk myths parroted for many years), Frei tells the story of their ill-fated affair . . . and beyond.
Read the first chapter of Olympic Affair here.
- Taylor Trade Publishing
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Meet the Author
Award-winning journalist, author, and screenwriter Terry Frei is in his second stint with the Denver Post. A native of Oregon, he has also written for the (Portland) Oregonian and the Sporting News; for eight years he was a featured columnist on ESPN.com. Among his previous books are Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming; 77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age; and Playing Piano in a Brothel. He and his wife, Helen, live in Denver. His website is www.terryfrei.com.
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Terry Frei gives a remarkable account of the improbable and little known story of America’s greatest athlete and his torrid, politically charged love affair with Nazi Germany’s most famous woman in a war ready Germany in Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler’s Siren and America’s Hero. Olympic Affair rediscovers the legend of Glenn Morris, America’s long forgotten hero from a tiny farming town in Colorado who won Olympic gold in the Decathlon at the 1936 Berlin Games, and brings his conflicted life back into the consciousness of America. Mr. Frei recounts how Morris, in the days around his ascending to the title of “The Greatest Athlete in the World”, won something even more unexpected, the heart and passion of Leni Riefenstahl, Germany’s renowned actress and producer who gained infamy as “Hitler’s Film Maker” for her 1935 Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will. Morris and Riefenstahl, at great personal and professional risk, plot to avoid the watchful eyes of the omnipresent Gestapo and the casual observations of ordinary citizens to conduct their clandestine affair amidst the backdrop of a flourishing and edgy Berlin. The drums of war can be faintly heard in the background before and during the Games as Mr. Frei weaves a story that leaves one wondering; Is Riefenstahl a star struck lover, a ruthlessly ambitious filmmaker, or a manipulative Nazi? Leni Riefenstahl, using her celebrity and singular force of will, maneuvers the political quagmire of the Nazi propaganda machine, led by the vulgar Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, in order to make her greatest film without the meddling of the Gestapo and German Olympic officials. She, with myopic vision, drives her Olympic Games documentary, “Olympia”, by pitting fear of the Fuehrer against anyone meddling in her aspirations. Glenn Morris, with his simple country values, helps to unite a racially divided Olympic team while trying to remain focused on his goal of Olympic gold and a future away from the farm. While Leni tries to open his eyes to a new world and unimagined future, Glenn struggles between the seductive pleasures of the present versus the moral expectations of his past. Mr. Frei details the racial, political and petty sexual machinations of America Olympic officials and sets them against the grander, evil maneuvering of the Nazi Party, who orchestrate the Games as a tool to deceive the world into believing that Germany is a peaceful and tolerant nation. Racism, anti-Semitism and back door political dealings all coalesce in a shocking appeasement of Hitler to save embarrassment to the Nazi party. Terry Frei revives an age when humility was an American trait, when a world class athlete hoped for a few crumbs from a benefactors’ table, when faithfulness to the girl next door was as American as a Rockwell painting. His Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler’s Siren and America’s Hero, is a well crafted tale of triumph, love and deceit as two giants of their times weave between love and expediency. He evokes a pre-war time when bureaucrats appeased a dictator and common citizens and athletes from around the world lived with hope, trepidation and suspicion. Interspersed with the stories of Jesse Owens and the forsaken Jewish sprinter, Marty Glickman, “Olympic Affair” roils with personal and political intrigue and love stretched to its boundaries. It is a story not to be missed.