Classic Hollywood and the racetrack had quite the love affair from the 1930s to the 1960s. With numerous films alluding to bets on the track and Hollywood stars attending races or even entering their own horses into the events, the history of horse racing is partially intertwined with Hollywood history.
During the Golden Age of Hollywood, it was not unusual to see racing-themed films such as A Day at the Races (1937), Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry (1937), or National Velvet (1944). Beyond the on-screen depictions of races, an off-screen fascination with the track took audiences by storm, including those involved in the film industry. Producers, directors, and actors frequented various race events, with some even becoming involved in their founding. Director Hal Roach, for example, co-founded Santa Anita Park, while actor Bing Crosby founded Del Mar with the likes of fellow actor Pat O’ Brien. In turn, studio heads Jack and Harry Warner founded Hollywood Park, offering an event to see for Hollywood elites who needed to be seen.
In addition, several stars owned their own horses, including Crosby, Fred Astaire, Betty Grable, and Don Ameche. In other cases, some star horse-owners had a notable lack of success with racing their horses, as was the case with Mickey Rooney and Chico Marx.
Hollywood at the Races: Film’s Love Affair with the Turf by Alan Shuback offers an enjoyable and interesting look back at Golden Age Hollywood’s on- and off-screen captivation with the track. Including a multitude of talents from classic Hollywood, this inviting book will be of interest to fans of classic Hollywood and the races.
Hollywood at the Races: Film’s Love Affair with the Turf is available for purchase via the University Press of Kentucky.