Photo by: Chris Shields
A brief look at a very happy long-term filmic relationship
By Shawn Stone
not that our various local Capital Region communities lack
the glamour, notoriety or historical relevance to be considered
Hollywood-worthy, but it’s always a shock whenever there’s
a mention of Albany, Schenectady or Troy in a movie or on
TV. No matter whether it’s an episode of Will & Grace
(Grace is from Schenectady) or a classic film, it’s a kick.
There’s a catch, however: The references usually aren’t very
flattering. In His Girl Friday, Cary Grant can’t hide
his sarcasm over his ex-wife settling down with her soon-to-be
husband (and dear mother-in-law) in Albany: “That will
be nice.” In Dames, Joan Blondell uses her need to
escape the implied desolation of Troy to justify blackmailing
a businessman out of his train compartment: “Have you ever
been to Troy?” And Schenectady? Schenectady is the
punch line of a Jack Benny wisecrack, or the place where a
teenage murder victim is from on Law & Order. (At
least the Electric City has Will & Grace.)
However, there’s no surprise when the reference is to Saratoga
Springs. Being the home of the storied Saratoga Race Course
gives mentions of the Spa City, whether in Ocean’s Eleven
or Guys and Dolls, a certain cache. And more to the
point, relevance—beyond busting on the upstate hicks, that
is. Saratoga is danger (back in the day, when gamblers and
gangsters came around) and elegance (way back in the day,
and today, as a favored playground of the wealthy). And, of
a matter of glamour. Saratoga is the place where, on screen,
Clark Gable and Jean Harlow fell in love for the last time,
and Loren Dean danced Nicole Kidman around the beaux-arts
glory of the Hall of Springs in Billy Bathgate. It’s
where, in real life, Hollywood legends Fred Astaire and Douglas
Fairbanks, Jr. made their last film appearances, in Ghost
Story, and Robert Redford directed Kristin Scott Thomas
and Scarlett Johansson in The Horse Whisperer. (Where
were you in 1997? The latter event made everyone—including
the local reporters, print and TV—so giddy it was embarrassing.)
As a movie location, the other cities around the region have
come into their own over the last two decades. Saratoga Springs
has been popular with filmmakers since the very beginning.
Naturally, the thoroughbred track has been the most sought-after
location. In 1914, Paramount sent a crew to the race course
to film the climax to the racing melodrama His Last Dollar.
The film no longer exists, but yes, the “last dollar” was
bet on a winning horse—and you can bet he finished in the
money. The track also figured prominently in The Homestretch,
a 1947 release that starred Maureen O’Hara, and presented
the race course alongside England’s Ascot as one of the best
in the world. It has been featured in movies as separated
by time as The Racing Strain (1918, lost) and the recent,
much-loved Oscar-nominee Seabiscuit.
Once in town, however, director Gary Ross and his Seabiscuit
crew took advantage of Canfield Casino’s nearby location for
filming, too. Billy Bathgate, Robert Benton’s film
about gangster Dutch Schultz, hit the trifecta, filming at
the track, in the Hall of Springs and at various outside locations
in the state park.
One of the folks who has helped this tradition continue is
Linda Toohey, executive vice president of the Saratoga County
Chamber of Commerce, and longtime commissioner of the former
Saratoga Film Commission (recently merged into the Capital-Saratoga
Film Commission). The commission has successfully marketed
the various facets of the Saratoga region, from the downtown
architecture to the Saratoga Spa State Park, and from the
Gideon Putnam to, of course, the track. Toohey has been involved
in bringing projects to town and supporting them for 24 years.
With Seabiscuit, Toohey notes that they didn’t even
use Saratoga as Saratoga: The race course served as a stand-in
for a West Coast track. “We have the most architecturally
realistic track,” she explains. Most other courses of the
same or even newer vintage have been altered beyond recognition,
but Saratoga’s race course is well-preserved.
there is a major motion picture,” Toohey explains, “we pretty
much drop everything” to work on it. Does this mean there’s
a bias against smaller films? No, she explains, the commission
would like to support independent film production, too.
Finally, alone of all the local cities, Saratoga has a film
named after itself. (Obviously, the recent epic Troy
doesn’t count.) Saratoga, made by MGM in 1937, is a
frothy comedy about a gambler (Clark Gable), an old coot (Lionel
Barrymore), the old coot’s lovely daughter (Jean Harlow) and
the old coot’s race horse. Though mostly made in Hollywood,
the race scenes were indeed filmed at the track. And though
a hint of sadness is attached to the film—Harlow died near
the end of production, and a double was used to complete some
scenes—Saratoga still managed capture the elegant spirit
of the city.
PARK (Saratoga Springs, 587-3241). Tue: Robanic Reggae (7
SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga Springs, tickets:
476-1000). Sun: John Mayer, Maroon 5, DJ Logic. Mon: Rush.
ALLEY BAR (Long Alley Road, Saratoga, 587-9766). Sun: karaoke
with Wayne from King Entertainment. Tue: karaoke with Mark
BAILEY’S (Phila and Putnam streets, Saratoga Springs, 583-6060).
Thu: Rick Bolton, Dwyer Sisters. Fri: Acoustic Circus. Sat:
Stylus Groove. Sun: Richie Ortiz. Wed: Torey and the Rough.
BRINDISI’S RESTAURANT (390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-6262).
Fri: the Bluz House Rockers. Sat: Johnny Rapp. Sun: Fletcher’s
Band. Mon: Al Bruno.
CAFFE LENA (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu:
open mic (7 PM). Fri: Adirondack Night. Sat: Camille West.
CLUB CAROLINE (13 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0155).
Thu: Bipolar. Fri: karaoke with DJ Chris. Sat: Springfed.
Sun: karaoke with DJ Chris. Tue: karaoke with DJ Chris. Wed:
THE CLUB HOUSE (30 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 580-0686).
Fri-Sat: DJ Daniel Van D, hiphop, club mixes.
HORSESHOE INN (1 Gridley St., Saratoga Springs, 587-4909).
Thu: the Smooze (6 PM). Fri: the Burners U.K. (6 PM). Sat:
Blue Hand Luke (6 PM). Sun: Tom Healey Band (6 PM). Mon: Jeff
Walton (6 PM).
THE INN AT SARATOGA (231 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 583-1890).
Sat: the Ria Curley Trio.
KING’S TAVERN (241 Union St., Saratoga Springs, 584-9643).
Fri: Somebody’s Closet. Sat: Empire State Troopers, the Let
9 MAPLE AVENUE (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB).
Fri: Jazz Factor. Sat: Tim Reyes and Friends.
ONE CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026).
Thu: Joe Gitto (6 PM); Mike Dimin, Brian Mellick. Fri: Dave
Payette (6 PM); John Sauer, Mike Delprete. Sat: Darren Lyons
(6 PM); Darren Lyons Quartet. Sun: Lee Shaw Duo (7 PM). Mon:
Rob Lindquist Duo. Tue: Masters of Nostalgia (7:30 PM). Wed:
Chuck D’Aloia Duo.
THE PARTING GLASS (40-42 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-1916).
Fri: Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers.
PEABODY’S SPORTS BAR (Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, 583-4214).
SARATOGA SPRINGS BREW PUB (14 Phila St., Saratoga Springs,
583-3209). Thu: Kevin Mullaney and Electric Life. Sat: the
Sean Rowe Trio.
SARATOGA WINNERS (Route 9, Latham, 783-1010). Fri: King Size,
Day Glow Suns, Alliance, Watching the Neighbors. Sat: It’s
Already Taken, Huge Earnest.
SIRO’S (168 Lincoln Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-4030). All
shows at 6 PM. Thu: Walter “Wolfman” Washington and his
Roadmasters. Fri: New York Players. Sat: the Burners U.K.
(6 PM). Sun: Soul Session. Mon: Boot the Owl. Wed: Blue Hand
Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Arts
Center of Saratoga, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. The Center
Players present a staged reading of the 1976 play. 8/11, 7:30
PM. $5. 584-4132.
Divas, Saratoga Arts Council Theatre, 320 Broadway,
Saratoga Springs. Nancy Timpanaro-Hogan and Laura Roth star
in a cabaret spoofing divas old and new. Through 8/28. $25.
Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga
Springs. 8/5, 8:15 PM: Charles Dutoit conducts the Philadelphia
Orchestra and violinist Leonidas Kavakos. The program includes
Berg’s Violin Concerto, Schubert’s Overture to Rosamunde
and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. $57.50-$15. 8/6, 8:15 PM:
An Evening in Old Vienna with the Philadelphia Orchestra and
conductor Erich Kunzel and soprano Jami Rogers. Featuring
music of the Strausses, Lehár, Haydn and more. $62-$15. 8/7,
8/15 PM: An all-Beethoven program with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
$57.50-$15. 8/11, 8:15 PM: The Tchaikovsky Spectacular with
violinist Rachel Barton and the Philadelphia Orchestra. $62-$15.
Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga
Springs. 8/8, 2:15 PM: Saratoga Chamber Music Festival presents
Vienna in Songs. Works by Schubert, Zwilich, Schoenberg, Brahms
and Korngold. $33.50-$28.50. 8/9, 8:15 PM: SCMF presents a
Celebration of Dvorák’s Centennial. Works by Dvorák, Zwilich,
Zeisl and Beethoven. $33.50-$28.50. 587-3330.
Street Artists’ Co-Op, 79 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs. 366-6706.
Streetwide artists market, featuring live music, ethnic food,
and works by more than 30 artists. 8/8, noon-6 PM.
Gallery 100, 445 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-0818. Saratoga
Springs & Beyond, featuring paintings by Nadia Rymanowski
and others. 8/5-31. Reception 8/7, 6-8 PM.
Springs Farmers Market. High Rock Park, Saratoga Springs.
Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.
daily through Sept. 6, except Tuesdays.
Location 267 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.
Admission $3 grandstand, $5 clubhouse; children under
12 free; seats are $6 and $7, respectively.
Parking $10 per car at the track side and $5 across
Union Avenue at the Oklahoma Training Track. General
parking is free.
Racing Nine or 10 races a day; pari-mutuel wagering
on every race.
First Race Post Time 1 PM (except Travers Day, Aug.
28, when it’s 12:30 PM).
Major Stakes Races The Whitney Handicap (Aug. 7);
the Jim Dandy (Aug. 8); the Sword Dancer Invitational
(Aug. 14 ); the Alabama Stakes (Aug. 21); the Hopeful
Stakes (Aug. 21 ); the Saratoga Breeders Cup (Aug.
22 ); the Travers Stakes (Aug. 28).
By Martin Benjamin
legend Bobby Hull made an official appearance at the Saratoga
Racetracks National Hockey League Race on Sunday (Aug.1),
but it was tough to care when the Hanson Brothers (pictured
below), stars of the 1976 film Slap Shot and role models to
millions of violent younsters on skates, turned up. Fanslike
security guard Mike Verro (pictured, with hat)were thrilled
to see the Hansons, though there was some tension during the
nation anthem. One of the brothers is reputed to have quieted
a restive audience member with the warning, Im
listening to the fucking song! OK, that last parts
a liebut wouldnt that have been great?
Craft Fair in Congress Park; Tuesday (Aug. 3)
Who: The Weinmans of Just Sticks
What are you doing here?: Selling furniture
Whats the best part about Saratoga?: Vicki likes
the atmosphere and says its fun to come down and
walk around on the streets.
I think theres a happy creativity going on,
Paul says. People are very open about just being here,
you see it on their facesunless they lost money on the
If Saratoga was a movie, what would it be called?: Get
on the Horse and Ride with a Smile