I was perusing http://www.imdb.com/ last week and I noticed an article that was linked to on that site about the "Ten Best Sports Movies Ever Made". The choice in the article was Burt Reynolds' "The Longest Yard". I certainly think that it is the running for a top spot on any such list, although I am not sure it is #1 overall (for a while, I might have put "The Natural" at #1 myself, but I have second thoughts about that as well). The article got me to thinking about quintessential horse racing movies. Actually, it got me thinking about the lack of quintessential horse racing movies. Honestly, can you name a really great movie about horse racing? "Seabiscuit" is the best recent attempt (although I find Tobey Maguire AMAZINGLY annoying in anything he does and Jeff Bridges should have been nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Mr. Howard, the owner of the horse). We'll have to see what justice Disney and Diane Lane do to "Secretariat" and Penny Tweedy later this year, but the one that kept standing out to me as a true horse racing movie is "Let It Ride".
"Let It Ride" is based on a book written by Jay Cronley called "Good Vibes". By the way, one of the main gambling characters in the movie is nicknamed "Vibes". He receives one of the best lines delivered by Richard Dreyfuss in the movie after he says, "I'd bet my life on it." and Dreyfuss replies, "sorry, there's a $2 minimum bet". Dreyfuss heads up what turns out to be an unbelievably high quality cast of talent in the movie.
Dreyfuss, who won an Academy Award in 1977 for Best Actor in "The Goodbye Girl", plays the main character Jay Trotter. If you are reading this blog, I am sure you have seen the movie and you don't need me to go into details about how the movie goes, but Trotter is a compulsive gambling schlub who goes to the track with a tip his cabbie buddy, Looney, got the previous night and parlays $50 into well over $600,000, if my math is correct. Looney is portrayed by David Johanssen, who had a number one hit earlier in the 80s as Buster Poindexter called "Hot Hot Hot" and was also the leader of The New York Dolls, an underground punk music group from the 70s that Johanssen is still going strong with today. The main female character is Vicky, played by Jennifer Tilly, who would be nominated for an Academy Award herself for Best Supporting Actress in "Bullets Over Broadway" in 1995. She currently is prominent in the poker world and even has a World Series Of Poker champions bracelet for winning the Ladies' Main Event a couple of years ago. Dreyfuss' teller in the movie is played by Robbie Coltrane. Coltrane might be better known to you (or your kids) as Hagrid in the Harry Potter series of films that have been all the rage in recent years. The role of 19-year-old Evangeline, girlfriend of Sidney, is played by a very young Cynthia Nixon, who would play Miranda on "Sex And The City" and in the two movies that subsequently sprung from that series. Even the bookie in the movie, Lufkin, was played by David Schramm, who was the best thing about the TV show "Wings", playing Roy Biggins from the competing airline to Sandpiper Air. Finally, there's Michelle Phillips, who plays one of the women in the Jockey Club that endlessly flirts with Trotter. All she was was a member of the 60s music group, "The Mamas And The Papas".
Could there be more talent on display in this thing? I didn't even get to the role of Trotter's wife, played by Teri Garr, who has an Oscar nomination of her own for Best Supporting Actress in 1983's "Tootsie". I kind of left her out because all of her scenes seem to be the drag on the movie. The only funny scene she has is where she finally gives up and admits to Trotter that she will become a drunk and just consume mass quantities of alcohol so she can deal with his foibles.
Yes, I know there are some flaws in the movie, like Looney calling Lufkin to bet on the Packers, even though the game appears to have already started (hey, it could have been a pre-game highlight show). However, the story, the cast, and everything about "Let It Ride" makes me think about Dreyfuss' line near the end after Vicky propositions him. He looks straight at the camera and says, "Am I having a good day or what?" If you are watching "Let It Ride", I am positive you will be having a good day.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!