7 April 2014

5' 2" Mickey Rooney Got Horse Racing Related Work

Mickey Rooney died at 93.  A Hollywood icon, he appeared in many horse racing themed movies throughout his career.

Typecast as a jockey, Rooney made the most of it.  Here is a scene from a  little known 1937 movie, Thoroughbreds Don't Cry:

Is it just me, or did the scene of the two guys on the horse have a sort of Brokeback Mountain feel to it?

Rooney of course was in National Velvet.   He played a retired jockey in The Black Stallion, in 1979.   For trivia buffs, the scene that starts around the 1:20 mark in this trailer was filmed at Fort Erie Race Track:

Mickey played a crooked jockey in the Twilight Zone episode The Last Night Of A Jockey.  A couple of observations.  First, was that Joe Drape on the other end of the phone near the beginning of the episode?  But more importantly, the program aired in 1963, when horse racing was mainstream.  Racetracks were full of bettors back then.  Still, there was the stigma that there were cheats in the game.  Jockey Grady was accused of drugging horses (back then, it was perceived that horses were drugged to run slower so they would lose at low odds) and race fixing.  He does admit guilt to both counts in the one actor show.  It was pretty much a given that cheating existed. 

The lifetime ban stuff is pretty much a joke since the 60s, though it looks like it might make a comeback very shortly.  But back to cheating, it may have hindered racing a bit, but the stands were still full.  Point is that the PETA claims aren't that huge a deal when it comes to the public perception and though racing needs fixing, its number one problem is competing as a form of gambling, the drug issue is secondary.

Rooney was also in a 1936 flick called Down The Stretch.  He played a jockey who had "been having a hard time living down the reputation of his father, a crooked jockey." 

There were plenty of racetrack movies from 1930 to the early 70's, and most had at least a few characters of dubious distinction, but the themes of the movies usually contained a plot or sub plot that included at least some foul play.  Horse racing was synonymous with cheating.

Here is the full version of The Last Night of a Jockey:

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