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Film / Grandad of Races

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Even cats watch the race.
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Grandad of Races (1950) is a short film (nine minutes) directed by Andre de la Varre.

It is a documentary short recording the Palio di Siena horse race, held in the town square in Siena, Italy. The race is a short one, consisting of three laps around the town square, totaling 3/4 of a mile. The whole town turns out to watch what is always a passionate contest between rival neighborhoods of Siena.

This one-reel short is typical of the travelogue shorts made by motion picture studios during The Golden Age of Hollywood. Over 60 years later, TV host Rick Steves covered the same event for his Travelogue Show.


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  • Narrator: Art Gilmore, who did a lot of voice work in this era (he did the voice of FDR in Yankee Doodle Dandy), provides the narration.
  • Serious Business: The locals of Siena are really into the horse race. Jockeys often use their whips on each other. Jockeys have also been attacked by a hostile crowd.
  • Sports Stories: A passionately contested local horse race.
  • Title Drop: "The grandad of races runs true to form and tradition."
  • Travelogue Show: Very common in the 1930s and 1940s for feature programs to be proceeded by a travelogue short, as well as a cartoon.

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