Racing Lady (1937)

Racing Lady (1937)

Directed by Wallace Fox with a screenplay by Dorothy Yost Thomas Lennon and Cortland Fitzsimmons that was based on “All Scarlet” by Damon Runyon and “Odds Are Even” by J. Robert Bren and Norman Houston this B programmer sports drama stars Ann Dvorak as a novice (and novelty) female racehorse trainer named Ruth Martin. Ruth’s father Tom (Harry Carey) taught her the business and she later becomes involved with Steve Wendall (Smith Ballew) who owns a whole stable-full of winning thoroughbreds which help to promote the line of automobiles which bear his surname. Berton Churchill and Ray Mayer play a couple of old racetrack junkies nicknamed Judge and Warbler who (provide comic relief &) knew Tom Martin when he used to have his own stable of successful horses. Willie Best plays Brass the Martin’s stable boy who’s also the son of their cook and housekeeper Abby played by Hattie McDaniel.

Ruth convinces her father to come out of retirement and run their horse “Pepper Mary” in a race at Santa Ana but a crooked jockey encouraged by his racehorse’s corrupt owner (Gilbert played by Harland Tucker) forces the Martin’s horse into the rail. Months later trained exclusively by Ruth Pepper Mary’s filly Katydid is ready to compete. Unable to afford a stakes race Ruth is accidentally (mis-)guided by Judge and Warbler to enter Katydid in a claims race which she wins. Predictably Wendall who was earlier spurned by Ruth when he’d wanted to hire her for the publicity she’d been getting in lieu of his horses and automobiles claims (e.g. buys) Katydid. He’s then able convince Ruth to work for his company for $500/month for a year during which the racehorse wins races all across the country and around the world generating lots of publicity and making everyone involved including Judge and Warbler a lot of money. Naturally Ruth and (now) Steve started to become more than just employer and employee during this time. But Wendall’s creed is to race only when he knows winning is a sure thing and Tom is disappointed to learn from his returning daughter that she’s lost her sense of sportsmanship and fair play. He’d thought he’d instilled in her that trying as long as you’d prepared and done your best was the right ideal.

In the final segment Katydid is stolen by Gilbert while Brass is sleeping before a big stakes race back home in Santa Ana. Ruth had wanted to enter the race but Wendall had wanted to scratch the racehorse per his creed so she suspects that he had something to do with the Katydid’s disappearance. They have an argument about it in his office but when Ruth returns to the track she learns from Brass where to find her horse. With barely enough time to get it before the race’s start Ruth and Brass find and retrieve Katydid who of course wins the big race. Afterwards after telling her father that she too is retiring Ruth treats Wendall (once again) curtly until Brass says that the phone call he’d received telling him where to find Katydid was made by the car king. She rushes to apologize and kiss Steve before the film ends happily and hopefully.

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