Horse Racing Movies
The First Auto (1927)… Russell Simpson, Frank Campeau. A successful horse breeder’s son goes to Detroit and gets involved with the auto industry. Barney Oldfield, a famous racecar driver, has a cameo.
Sporting Blood (1931)… Clark Gable, Ernest Torrence, Madge Evans, Lew Cody, Marie Provost, J. Farrell MacDonald. Gable was still in his tough guy mode for this one but most of his films are worth seeing. This one revolves around a racehorse and its various owners heading to the Kentucky Derby.
Men of Chance (1932)… Mary Astor, Ricardo Cortez, John Halliday, Ralph Ince, Kitty Kelly. Two gamblers use a woman to get information on a fixed horse race from rival gamblers.
Broadway Bill (1934)… Warner Baxter, Myrna Loy, Walter Connolly, Helen Vinson, Lynne Overman, Raymond Walburn, Clarence Muse, Douglass Dumbrille, Charles Lane, Ward Bond, Margaret Hamilton, Clara Blandick, Frankie Darro, Jason Robards Sr. Baxter marries into money, buys a racehorse and confusion reigns. Worth seeing for Frank Capra's standard wholesome touch. In fact, he remade the film in 1950 as the musical Riding High with almost the same supporting cast.
The Lemon Drop Kid (1934)… Lee Tracy, Helen Mack, William Frawley, Minna Gombell, Baby LeRoy, Robert McWade, Kitty Kelly. Tracy is a fast-talking gambler who falls for Mack. Adapted from a Damon Runyon story but plays better in the 1951 Bob Hope version. Ann Sheridan has a bit part in one of the track scenes.
The Big Race (1934)… Boots Mallory, John Darrow, Paul Hurst, Frankie Darro, Phillips Smalley. Owners and trainers and crooks.
Hot Tip (1935)… ZaSu Pitts, James Gleason, Margaret Callahan. A racing fan's predictions go wrong and land his friends lose at the track.
Down the Stretch (1936)… Mickey Rooney, Patricia Ellis, Dennis Moore, Willie Best, Gordon Hart. A jockey, Snapper Sinclair, tries to live down the reputation of his father who once threw a race. A nice woman helps him because he is the son of the man who helped make her father's stables successful. Along the way he wins the National Derby and the Preakness but becomes mixed up with gamblers. Fans of Rooney will enjoy his dramatic take on the role.
Three Men on a Horse (1936)… Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Allen Jenkins, Sam Levine. Mild-mannered Erwin Trowbridge, who has a knack for picking the horses, meets three gamblers in a bar and makes bets for them.
Two in Revolt (1936)… John Arledge, Loise Latimer, Moroni Olsen. A police dog (Lightning) and a racehorse (Warrior) grow up together and fend off crooks trying to fix the big race.
Thoroughbred (1936)… Helen Twelvetrees, Frank Leighton, John Longden. A Canadian horse trainer buys an injured colt named Stormalong. She takes good care of him and he wins some races. He is entered in the Melbourne Cup after which underhanded gamblers get involved.
* A Day at the Races (1937)… Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx, Allan Jones, Maureen O'Sullivan, Esther Muir, Margaret Dumont, Douglass Dumbrille, Sig Ruman. Outstanding Marx Brothers vehicle with many memorable comedy bits starring Groucho’s Hugo Z. Hackenbush: The paper-hanging sequence and the hilarious, “Get you tootsie-fruitsie ice cream.” The film also features a lindy hop dance sequence set to the tune of "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm" featuring the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers.
Saratoga (1937)… Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Frank Morgan, Walter Pidgeon, Una Merkel, Cleff Edwards, George Zucco, Hattie MacDaniel, Maragret Hamilton. Heavyweight cast tries their best in what was Harlow's Hollywood swan song – she died halfway through production. Stand-in Mary Dees finished the film for her.
* Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (1937)… Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Sophie Tucker, C. Aubrey Smith, Frankie Darro, Henry Kolker, Helen Troy. Rooney's the jockey in with the wrong crowd, Garland's the girlfriend trying to save him. Their first of many movies together and worth seeing.
Checkers (1937)… Jane Withers, Stuart Erwin, Una Merkel, Marvin Stephens, Andrew Tombes, June Carlson, Minor Watson, John Harrington, Spencer Charters, Francis Ford. A little girl and a trainer save a horse with a broken leg and enter it in a race. Lon Chaney Jr. has a bit part as a man at the racetrack.
Racing Lady (1937)… Ann Dvorak, Smith Ballew, Harry Carey. Based on a Damon Runyon story, an unlucky horse breeder is persuaded by his daughter to enter a mare in the feature race at the county fair. The horse gets injured so the daughter takes over as trainer and becomes successful.
The Frame-up (1937)… Paul Kelly, Julie Bishop. George McKay. Bookmakers and gangsters.
Wine, Women and Horses (1937)… Barton MacLane, Ann Sheridan, Dick Purcell. A reformed gambler risks his marriage when he starts betting on the horses.
You Can’t Buy Luck (1937)… Onslow Stevens, Helen Mack, Vinton Haworth. A racehorse owner tries to improve his luck by performing good deeds, but gets mixed up in a murder instead.
* Stablemates (1938)… Wallace Beery, Mickey Rooney, Arthur Hohl, Margaret Hamilton, Minor Watson, Marjorie Gateson. Sentimental story of young jockey and veteran horse doctor. Worth watching for the emotional and sometimes comical chemistry between Rooney and Beery. In the meantime, Hamilton (best known as the Wicked Witch of the West) makes a hilarious pay for Beery.
Speed to Burn (1938)… Michael Whalen, Lynn Bari, Marvin Stephens, Henry Armetta, Chick Chandler, Sidney Blackmer, Johnnie Pirrene, Charles D. Brown, Inez Palange. A man raises a horse for a trainer and but it is sold to the police. Then somehow crooks keep it from racing. Lon Chaney Jr. has a bit part as a man at the racetrack.
Sweepstakes Winner (1939)… Marie Wilson, Johnnie Davis, Allen Jenkins, Charlie Foy, Jerry Colonna. Comedy.
Pride of the Blue Grass (1939)… Edith Fellows, James McCallion, Granville Bates. A jockey trains a blind horse. Based on the true story of Elmer Gantry, owned by Eleanor Getzendaner, as the real blind horse who plays himself. The horse goes blind in the Kentucky Derby, but enters the Aintree Grand National Steeplechase in England.
The Day the Bookies Wept (1939)… Joe Benner, Betty Grable, Richard Lane, Tom Kenndy, Thurston Hall. Lame comedy about a group of cab drivers who buy a race horse named Hiccough.
Sporting Blood (1940)… Robert Young, Maureen O'Sullivan, Lewis Stone. A young man trying to rebuild the family racing stables falls for the daughter of a rival.
Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)… William Powell, Myrna Loy, Barry Nelson, Donna Reed, Sam Levene, Alan Baxter. All of the Thin Man series (this is the fourth installment) are worth viewing. This one involves a murder mystery at the race track.
It Ain't Hay (1943)… Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Patsy O'Connor, Grace McDonald, Leighton Noble, Cecil Kellaway, Eugene Pallette, Eddie Quillan. Recommended comedy fare - one of their better ones - with a fine supporting cast. Taken from a Damon Runyon story revolving around the racehorse Teabiscuit and A&C's efforts to help the owner.
* National Velvet (1944)… Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Donald Crisp, Anne Revere, Angela Lansbury, Reginald Owen, Norma Varden, Jackie Jenkins, Terry Kilburn. Rooney and Taylor are truly memorable in this must-see classic about a young girl's dedication to her racehorse. Revere won Supporting Oscar as Taylor's mother. Taken from Enid Bagnold novel with a sequel, International Velvet with Tatum O'Neal, filmed in 1978.
The Great Mike (1944)… Stuart Erwin, Robert Henry, Marion Martin, Carl Switzer, Pierre Watkin, Gwen Kenyon. A nice little story of a young man and his horse who's destined to be a champion. Switzer is the Alfalfa from the Little Rascals.
Home in Indiana (1944)… Walter Brennan, Charlotte Greenwood, Lon McAllister, Ward Bond, Charles Dingle, Jeanne Crain, June Haver. From imdb.com: A lad with a penchant for trouble is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Indiana. Though he's not happy about the arrangement at first, his love of horses and his affection for a young colt that he plans to race make life bearable. He also finds romance with tomboyish Char who shares his love for horses.
She Went to the Races (1945)… James Craig, Francis Gifford, Ava Gardner, Edmond Gwenn, Sig Ruman, Reginald Owens. A group of professors devise a system for betting at the track. Along the way, the female of the group falls for the horse’s owner who is already engaged.
My Brother Talks to Horses (1946)… Butch Jenkins, Peter Lawford, Spring Byington, Beverly Tyler, Edward Arnold, Charles Ruggles. Baltimore gamblers use a 9-year-old who communicates with horses. Attempt at a whacky comedy (two inventors under the same roof) suffers from a so-so script but it does have some cute moments, especially when Louie (Jenkins) talks to the horses and chickens, along with a solid cast. Culminates at the Preakness.
Too Many Winners (1947)… Hugh Beaumont, Trudy Marshall, Claire Carleton, Charles Mitchell, Ralph Dunn, John Hamilton, Grandon Rhodes, Frank Hagney, Maurice B. Mozelle, Ben Welden, Byron Foulger. Michael Shayne investigates a gang of race tickets counterfeiters and murder. [Beaumont was best known as Beaver’s father, Ward Cleaver.]
The Winner’s Circle (1948)… William Gould, Jean Willis, John Beradino, Johnny Longden, Morgan Farley. From imdb: This film features footage of Man O' War, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Alsab, Assault, Gallant Fox, Bold Venture, Stymie, Phar Lap, Bull Lea, Discovery, War Admiral, Sir Barton, and Equipoise. Longden, a championship thoroughbred jockey, appears as himself.
The Return of October (1948)… Glenn Ford, Terry Moore, Albert Sharpe, James Gleason, Dame May Whitty. An heiress thinks her horse is the reincarnation of her Uncle Willie.
Esther Waters (1948)… Kathleen Ryan, Dirk Bogarde. A ladies man becomes popular at the track in 1880s England.
The Story of Seabiscuit (1949)… Shirley Temple, Barry Fitzgerald, Lon McCallister, Rosemary DeCamp. Fitzgerald plays the famed thoroughbred's Irish trainer in so-so effort. Not very true to the real story although real footage of the famed thoroughbred can be seen, especially the head-to-head race won over War Admiral at Pimlico. The movie cleverly move to a B&W format leading up to the race so the footage would blend in better. Color was then restored after the race. Also, one of Seabeascuit’s offspring was used in the filming.
The Great Dan Patch (1949)… Dennis O’Keefe, Gail Russell, Ruth Warwick, Charlotte Greenwood, Henry Hull, John Hoyt. Story of legendary trotting horse Dan Patch, unbeaten in 11 years of racing, takes a lot of liberties but is still entertaining.
Sorrowful Jones (1949)… Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, William Demarest, Mary Jane Saunders, Bruce Cabot, Thomas Gomez. Loose remake of Little Miss Marker is average at best. One of Ball's last films before I Love Lucy started.
Riding High (1950)… Bing Crosby, Coleen Gray, Charles Bickford, Margaret Hamilton, Frances Gifford, James Gleason, Raymond Walburn, William Demarest, Ward Bond, Clarence Muse, Percy Kilbride, Gene Lockhart, Douglass Dumbrille, Harry Davenport, Charles Lane, Frankie Darro. Musical remake of Broadway Bill is ok but still entertaining. Frank Capra's direction and Oliver Hardy's cameo help.
Blue Grass of Kentucky (1950)… Bill Williams, Jane Nigh, Ralph Morgan.
The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)… Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, Lloyd Nolan, Jane Darwell, William Frawley. Remake of 1934 film is actually one of Hope's better efforts. Frawley appears in both. Song "Silver Bells" is introduced for the first time here.
* Boots Malone (1952)… William Holden, Johnny Stewart, Stanley Clements, Annie Lee, Harry Morgan. A struggling cynical agent hooks up with a 15-year-old runaway rich kid who wants to be a jockey. Complications arise through his mother and gangsters after buying White Cargo and intense training. Good racing footage. Realistic dialog. Fine performances all around. [Filmed at a California ranch for the fictional Dellington Park.]
Derby Day (1952)… Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding, John McCallum, Googie Withers. British film about human interaction at the Epsom Downs racetrack in England.
A Girl in Every Port (1952)… Groucho Marx, Marie Wilson, William Bendix, Don DeFore, Gene Lockhart. A carhop owns a speedy racehorse but two sailors try to swap him out with a lame identical twins they were conned into. [Marx made this film as a favor for his friend, producer Irwin Allen, who did not do well with comedies.]
Money From Home (1953)… Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Pat Crowley, Robert Strauss, Jack Kruschen. Better than average Martin & Lewis fare with the usually assortment of gags, songs, gangsters and romance thrown in. Originally shown in 3D.
Fast Company (1953)… Howard Keel, Polly Bergen, Marjoire Main, Nina Foch. A trainer keeps a racehorse on a losing streak in hopes of buying it cheaply from the female owner.
Pride of the Blue Grass (1954)… Lloyd Bridges, Vera Miles, Margaret Sheridan. A girl’s horse (Gypsy Prince) enters a race and gets injured but she nurses him back to health. He then wins the big race.
The Fighting Chance (1955)… Rod Cameron, Julie London, Ben Cooper, Taylor Holmes, Bob Steele. Horse trainer and jockey both love the same woman. Ho-hum.
* The Killing (1956)… Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, Marie Windsor, Joe Sawyer, Elisha Cook, Timothy Carey. Stanley Kubrick's classic direction and fine supporting cast highlight this story about a robbery at a racetrack. Adapted from Lionel White's novel, Clean Break.
Glory (1956)… Margaret O'Brien, Walter Brennan, Charlotte Greenwood, John Lupton. Woman rides champion horse in the Kentucky Derby. Included actual film footage of the real 1955 Kentucky Derby. Swaps (ridden by Willie Shoemaker) defeated Nashua (Eddie Arcaro) in that one.
Just My Luck (1957)… Norman Wisdom, Margaret Rutherford, Jill Dixon. A Jeweler’s assistant spends a day at the track to try to win money to buy a gift for the girl he has a crush on. British comedy.
A Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed (1958)… Tom Ewell, Mickey Rooney, Mickey Shaughnessy, Dina Merrill. Average little comedy with Ewell and Rooney planning to buy a racehorse with ill-gotten booty.
For the Love of Mike (1960)… James E. McLarty. An orphan trains a racehorse so he can win the money to build a new church.
Wall Of Noise (1963)… Ty Hardin, Jean Byron, Ralph Meeker, Suzanne Pleshette, Dorothy Provine, Simon Oakland, Jimmy Murphy. A horse-trainer at Hollywood Park becomes an owner with the help of a wealthy neglected wife.
Dead Cert (1973)… Scott Antony, Judi Dench… A British jockey/trainer investigates the racetrack death of his lover’s husband.
Win, Place and Steal (1975)… Dean Stockwell, Russ Tamblyn, Alex Karras, McLean Stevenson, Alan Oppenheimer, Kristina Holland. Tamblyn and Karras try their best at hijinx around the racetrack. Nothing special here.
Bite the Bullett (1975)… Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, James Coburn, Ben Johnson, Ian Bannen, Jan-Michael Vincent, Robert Donner, Paul Stewart, Dabney Coleman, Sally Kirkland. Excellent story of a grueling 600-mile, turn-of-the-century horse race. Worth watching once but not for all tastes.
Run for the Roses (1978)… Vera Miles, Stuart Whitman, Sam Groom, Panchito Gomez, Theodore Wilson, Lisa Eilbacher. Average story of a Puerto Rican boy training his horse to run in the Kentucky Derby.
Casey's Shadow (1978)… Walter Matthau, Alexis Smith, Robert Webber, Murray Hamilton, Andrew A. Rubin, Stephen Burns. Ok story of a shady horse trainer coming to terms after his wife leaves. He's left to raise his three sons alone and then enters the annual quarter horse race in Ruidoso.
Champions (1983)… John Hurt, Edward Woodward, Jan Francis, Ben Johnson, Kirstie Alley, Peter Barkworth, Ann Bell, Judy Parfitt. Based on a true story of a jockey battling cancer. Hurt is excellent in this very emotional film.
* Phar Lap (1983)… Tom Burlinson, Richard Morgan, Robert Grubb, Martin Vaughan. True story of a 1930s New Zealand racehorse that becomes a champion with the help of trainer Harry Telford and, to a lesser exstent, an Australian stable boy.
Champions (1984)… John Hurt, Gregory Jones. The true story of Bob Champion, a British steeplechase jockey who was diagnosed with cancer.
Let it Ride (1989)… Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, David Johansen, Jennifer Tilly, Allen Garfield, Ed Walsh, Michelle Phillips, Mary Woronov, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Edson, Cynthia Nixon. Dreyfuss is fun as a compulsive gambler on a winning streak at a Florida racetrack. Dreyfuss and racing fans will love it. Others will probably consider it forgettable.
Silent Rain in the Ninth (1998)… Chuck Brinig, Laurie Gould, Terra Demartin-Anderson. Character study of an addicted gambler in one of his winning and losing days at the track.
The Grifters (1990)… John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Annette Benning. Con artists and bookies. Nominated for 4 Oscars.
* Seabiscuit (2003)… Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Cooper, William H. Macy, Gary Stevens. The true rags-to-riches story of Seabiscuit, the long-shot, undersized racehorse who shocked the nation and was named Horse of the Year in 1938. Even more remarkable was that an ex-prizefighter/jockey, a mute mustang breaker and a cavalry veteran trained him to use his intelligence, speed, and competitiveness that had gone previously undetected. The movie was shot at several locations, including Kentucky's Keeneland Racecourse, New York's Saratoga Racecourse and California's Santa Anita Racecourse. Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book.
Dreamer (2005)… Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Kris Kristofferson, Elisabeth Shue, David Morse, Freddy Rodríguez. A trainer and his daughter nurse an injured horse back to health to enter her in the Breeders' Cup.
The Derby Stallion (2005)… Bill Cobbs, Zav Efron, William R. Moses, Tonja Walker, Sarah Blackman, Preston Brant, K.C. Clyde. An alcoholic former horse-trainer helps a fifteen-year-old boy learn horsemanship and run the big race and try to defeat the rich town bully.
* Secretariat (2010)… Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Scott Glenn, James Cromwell. The story of Penny Chenery, owner of Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973. Racing scenes filmed at Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY, Evangeline Downs, Carencro, LA and Keeneland Racetrack KY.
* The Cup (2012)… Stephen Curry, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel MacPherson. Two jockey brothers try to keep the family legacy going after their father dies tragically in a racing accident. Damien Oliver’s goal is to win the prestigious Melbourne Cup with help of a famous trainer and a spirited horse, Media Puzzle. Based on a true story.
50 to 1 (2014)… Skeet Ulrich, Chrstian Kane, William Devane. New Mexico cowboys enter their long-shot racehorse in the Kentucky Derby in 2009. Based on the true story of the horse, “Mine That Bird” who had a racing career in Canada and the United States from 2008-2010. He is best known for a huge upset by winning the Kentucky Derby in 2009.