She Went to the Races
Cast & Crew
When Dr. Ann Wotters, a young scientist at the Brockhurst Institute of Research in Los Angeles, learns that her uncle and associate, Dr. Homer Pecke, is being forced to retire because the institute's trustees could not raise the $20,000 needed to support his research, she decides that something must be done to save his job. Homer's associates, Dr. Gurke, Dr. Pembroke and Dr. Collyer, are also concerned about Homer, and they learn about a way to raise money quickly when Tony, the janitor at the laboratory, tells them about his success at the racetrack. Gurke, Pembroke and Collyer immediately begin devising a "scientific" formula to predict the outcome of future races, and when they feel confident that they have devised just such a formula, they inform Ann of their plan. Ann accompanies her colleagues to Pasadena, where they hope to set up temporary residence and conduct experiments near the racetrack. Soon after they arrive, however, the scientists realize that the hotels in the city are completely booked. Undaunted, Ann talks her way into a hotel room that has been reserved for Steve Canfield, a horse owner who is late for check-in. Steve arrives at the room a short time after the four settle in, but Ann uses her charms to persuade him to let her have the second room in his suite. Also staying at the hotel is Hilda Spotts, a stylish old flame of Steve's, who owns a competing horse. While Ann and Steve begin a romance, Hilda uses her wiles to distract James for her own interests. Gurke, Pembroke and Collyer eventually determine that Steve's horse, Mr. McGillicudy, will win the upcoming Sonoma Handicap race, but Steve tries to discourage Ann from betting on his horse, insisting that he cannot win in the rain. Steve later offers the services of his private detective friend Mason to locate Homer, who has been missing for some time. Homer eventually turns up at the racetrack, where he befriends Steve's trainer Jeff Habbard. While Jeff persuades Homer to bet on his horse, Ann changes her bet at the last minute, and wagers all her money on the horse Steve thinks will win. Homer reunites with Ann and his colleagues just before the race, and inadvertently drives a wedge between Ann and Steve when he mistakenly tells her that Steve bet on his own horse instead of the one he suggested for Ann. When McGillicudy wins, Ann thinks that Steve had double-crossed her, and Steve feels responsible for Ann's loss. Soon after Ann ends her romance with Steve, Steve goes to a bar and tries to rekindle his romance with Hilda. Though she initially rejects Steve's advances, Hilda later decides that they should marry and race their horses on a single ticket. Ann gives up hope for a reconciliation with Steve and is about to leave Pasadena when she learns that her colleagues have failed to come up with enough money to bet on the next race and recoup their losses. Ann borrows the money from Steve after making amends with him, but she is devastated when he tells her that he is now engaged to Hilda. Later, after placing her bet on Mr. McGillicudy, Ann challenges Hilda to prove that she is not marrying Steve for his money and dares her to make a last-minute change to the race program by removing her horse from a joint entry with Steve's horse. After Hilda accepts the challenge, Ann suggests that they use the results of the race to decide the outcome of their rivalry for Steve's affections. Under the terms of their agreement, Ann will only be able to continue her pursuit of Steve if Mr. McGillicudy wins the race. Only moments before the start of the race, word arrives that the trustees have agreed to reinstate Homer to the staff of Brockhurst. When Mr. McGillicudy wins the race, Ann and Steve celebrate their renewed romance with a kiss.
J. M. Kerrigan
Peter P. Decker
A. Arnold Gillespie
Frank B. Mackenzie
De Vallon Scott
Robert W. Shirley
John A. Williams
Edwin B. Willis
She Went to the Races
In the film, Frances Gifford plays a professor who comes up with a scientific formula for predicting horse-race winners. She falls in love with trainer James Craig, who thinks her formula is ridiculous. Gardner plays the third side of the love triangle as a beautiful socialite (with the unlikely name of Hilda Spotts) who tries to steal Craig away. Rounding out the cast were old reliables Sig Ruman, Edmund Gwenn and Reginald Owen. She Went to the Races was shot in a few weeks beginning in May, 1945, during which World War II ended in Europe and Ava Gardner found herself engaged to bandleader Artie Shaw, after having divorced Rooney.
Frances Gifford had been groomed by MGM for stardom, but is completely eclipsed by Gardner in the film. Author Jeanine Basinger wrote, "The audiences saw the truth in a revealing scene in which Gifford and the leading man (James Craig) are arguing outside an elevator in a hotel corridor. Suddenly, the elevator doors open and out steps Gardner. She moves into the frame, delivers a line or two in her low, husky voice, and walks off. It's not much, but it's everything. The minute Gardner appears she takes it all away from both Gifford and Craig. It's not just that she's fabulous looking. So are they. It's not just the careful lighting, the framing of her medium close-up. No, it's the x factor. Gardner's got something extra - a lot of it, in fact - and it's fully on display. She's got star written all over her, and within a year, she was one."
Gardner would have to wait until The Killers to make it to the big time. Tag-lines like "THEY'RE OFF! (IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE)" "WE PROFESSORS STARTED OUT LOOKING FOR BUGS...BUT FINISHED LOOKING AT HORSES!", "HORSES ARE HARD TO FIGURE...BUT DON'T BET ON WOMEN!" "A NECK-TO-NECK FINISH!" "SHE PUT HER MONEY ON THE WRONG HORSE...BUT HER FAITH WAS IN THE RIGHT GUY!" certainly did nothing to help promote She Went to the Races. The audience knows a mediocre movie when it sees one, and She Went to the Races was nothing but a pretty 'B' picture, which was apparent to New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther. His scathing review termed it a "so-called comedy". "[T]he people at Metro apparently thought there might be some fun in showing a team of mental wizards raising funds for further research at the track...And they put them to work in this fable, which thoroughly mangles horse-racing and love. The cast is plainly competent; the script most obviously is not. The result is about as gratifying as a ticket on a horse that places fifth."
Silent comedy legend Buster Keaton actually worked on the screenplay though he is uncredited and he also allegedly makes an unbilled cameo appearance as a bellboy.
Producers: Frederick Stephani
Director: Willis Goldbeck
Screenplay: Lawrence Hazard (writer); DeVallon Scott, Alan Friedman (story); Buster Keaton (uncredited)
Cinematography: Charles Salerno
Art Direction: Preston Ames, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Nathaniel Shilkret
Film Editing: Adrienne Fazan
Cast: James Craig (Steve Canfield), Frances Gifford (Dr. Ann Wotters), Ava Gardner (Hilda Spotts), Edmund Gwenn (Dr. Homer Pecke), Sig Ruman (Dr. Gurke), Reginald Owen (Dr. Pembroke), J.M. Kerrigan (Jeff Habbard), Charles Halton (Dr. Collyer), Chester Clute (Wallace Mason), Frank Orth (Bartender Skelly).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Basinger, Jeanine The Star Machine
Crowther, Bosley "Out of the Money: She Went to the Races", New York Times 1 Feb 46
Fowler, Karin J. Ava Gardner: A Bio-Bibliography
Gardner, Ava Ava: My Story
She Went to the Races
According to a undated M-G-M News item contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, William Frawley was initially cast in the role played by Chester Clute.