Alan ShubackNov 15, 2022
Hollywood at the Races
Film's Love Affair with the Turf
University Press of Kentucky 2019
Today I talked to Alan Shuback about his book Hollywood at the Races: Film's Love Affair with the Turf (UP of Kentucky, 2019)
A love of the slapstick film duo Laurel and Hardy led nine-year-old Alan Shuback into a chance encounter with thoroughbred horse racing in 1957. Racing soon also became a passion, and he never abandoned either love, making a career out of the latter as a transatlantic racing journalist. More recently, with Hollywood and racing both in decline in Shuback’s eyes, he set out to document the close relationship between them during a golden era for both, encompassing the 1930s to the 1970s.
In this intriguing interview, Shuback discusses anti-Semitism in the early days of Santa Anita, one of southern California’s premier racetracks, which led to the formation of rival racecourse Hollywood Park; Louis B. Mayer’s obsession with racing, producing one of America’s most powerful racing stables and nearly leading to his firing from MGM; Fred Astaire’s late-life marriage to a pioneering female jockey who was decades younger than him; and the role of films about horse racing in the broader culture. (For the record, at least 60 movies on the topic were released in the 1930s alone.)
Finally, Shuback analyzes the decline of both industries. It’s a sad note, but one that leaves you grateful for the memories.
Rachel Pagones was a London-based journalist at the Racing Post from 2001-2009 and a racing columnist for the Financial Times from 2003-2009.