Hollywood at the RacesFilm's Love Affair with the Turf

Hollywood at the RacesFilm's Love Affair with the Turf

Alan Shuback

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780813178295

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky


An examination of the symbiotic relationship that existed between the Hollywood film community and horse racing, primarily between 1930 and 1960, Hollywood at the Races explores the extraordinary participation of producers, directors, and actors in the sport of kings. All three of Southern California’s major racetracks were founded in part or in whole by Hollywood luminaries: Hal Roach was cofounder of SantaAnita; Bing Crosby founded Del Mar with help from Pat O’Brien; and the Warner brother founded Hollywood Park with assistance from dozens of people in the film community. Moreover, people like Crosby, Betty Grable, Mervyn LeRoy, and Don Ameche owned racehorses, while MGM’s chief of production, Louis B. Mayer, was one of the nation’s leading owner-breeders. Racing also had an interest in Hollywood, as evidenced by the exploits of breeder-owner Jock Whitney, who helped finance David O. Selznick’s productions of GonewiththeWind and Rebecca. A horse owned by Rita Hayworth (aka the Princess Aly Khan) nearly won Europe’smost important race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and screenwriter- producer Gene Markey became the co-owner of Calumet Farm when he married his fourth wife.During this period, Hollywood produced at least 120 racing-themed films, among them A Day at the Races, National Velvet, and Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry. Thelast two starred Mickey Rooney, an inveterate horseplayer who, like Chico Marx and Jimmy Durante, lost a fortune at the track.The book concludes with an analysis of the twin declines of racing and cinema in America in recent decades.