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From robo-heavyweights to angry ice-skaters, sports movies occupy a peculiar and often frankly unwatchable place in the annals of Hollywood history. Amid global lockdown, the PA news agency runs a daily rule over some of the films that might provide that much-needed sporting fix – and those that absolutely shouldn’t.
THE KEEPER (2019)
Few goalkeepers have survived more tests of character than Bert Trautmann, the former Nazi paratrooper who joined Manchester City amid much protest in the years immediately after the Second World War. Following his capture, The Keeper takes up Trautmann’s story after he is sent to a prisoner of war camp in Lancashire. His footballing talent first attracts non-League St Helens Town and he is eventually scouted by City. He faces hostility from a city with a large Jewish community but eventually wins them over, earning hero status by playing on with a broken neck in the 1956 FA Cup final.
German actor David Kross stars as Trautmann in what is also a love story and a tale of society rebuilding itself after years ravaged by war. Scottish actor Freya Mavor provides the love interest as Margaret while John Henshaw, whose Mancunian tones are as broad as ever, is St Helens manager, and Trautmann’s future father-in-law, Jack Friar.
This heartfelt portrayal of Trautmann’s life is about much more than football. Indeed the sport is often incidental to the blossoming romance between Bert and Margaret and their subsequent family life, as well as life amid prejudice in the aftermath of war. Anyone who has read Trautmann’s book will realise liberties have been taken by the scriptwriters and there are some glaring omissions, such as mention of the child born out of wedlock Trautmann fathered with another woman. Yet at its core it remains a moving true story. It could easily have ended after the FA Cup final but the film goes on to deal with subsequent family tragedy that makes it all the more poignant.
Trautmann’s real name was Bernhard. It was shortened to Bernd as he grew older and that morphed into Bert after he moved to, and later settled in, England. City were leading 3-1 at Wembley when Trautmann collided with Birmingham striker Peter Murphy with 14 minutes remaining. With no substitutes allowed he played on, despite the pain, and made a number of saves. Days later he discovered he had broken and dislocated vertebrae.