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Hollywood at the Races: Film's Love Affair with the Turf

by Alan Shuback

Availablecloth$36.95 978-0-8131-7829-5
304 pages  Pubdate: 11/05/2019  6 x 9  24 b&w photos, 3 tables

Horse racing was so popular and influential between 1930 and 1960 that nearly 150 racing themed films were released, including A Day at the Races, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry, and National Velvet. This fast-paced, gossipy history explores the relationship between the Hollywood film industry, the horse racing industry, and the extraordinary participation of producers, directors, and actors in the Sport of Kings. Alan Shuback details how all three of Southern California’s major racetracks were founded by Hollywood luminaries: Hal Roach was cofounder of Santa Anita Park, Bing Crosby founded Del Mar with help from Pat O’Brien, and Jack and Harry Warner founded Hollywood Park with help from dozens of people in the film community. The races also provided a social and sporting outlet for the film community—studios encouraged film stars to spend a day at the races, especially when a new film was being released. The stars’ presence at the track generated a bevy of attention from eager photographers and movie columnists, as well as free publicity for their new films. Moreover, Louis B. Mayer, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Betty Grable, and Don Ameche were all major Thoroughbred owners, while Mickey Rooney, Chico Marx, and John Huston were notorious for their unsuccessful forays to the betting windows.

Alan Shuback has worked as a columnist and foreign correspondent for the Daily Racing Form and was the American correspondent for the British racing daily the Sporting Life. He is the author of Global Racing: The Complete Guide to the Greatest Foreign Racecourses and a contributor to Bet with the Best: Expert Strategies from America’s Leading Handicappers. Shuback writes frequently on the convergence of horse racing and the film world.

In Hollywood at the Races, Shuback supplies an informative and amusing look at the close relationship between Golden Age Hollywood and West Coast horse racing. A fascinating read for anyone interested in Hollywood culture and Los Angeles history. -- Christina Rice, author of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel