Over the years, many motion pictures have been shot, all or in part, in Santa Monica – ranging from one of Charlie Chaplin’s first one-reelers to such recent releases as The Story of Us and The Truth About Cats and Dogs.
Tapping into Hollywood’s extensive archives, the Santa Monica Conservancy will screen director Sydney Pollack’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? next Wednesday.
Some of Hollywood’s most famous films, including They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, as well as The Sting and Inside Daisy Clover, were shot on the Santa Monica Pier. In The Sting, the Carousel and its merry-go-round stood in for the Chicago hideout of Paul Newman. In Daisy Clover, Daisy (Natalie Wood) and her wonderfully addled mother (Ruth Gordon) lived in a trailer on the pier before Daisy became a star.
Of the three, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, about marathon dancing during the Depression, is the most faithful look at life as it was on the pier.
The 1969 movie starred Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Red Buttons, Susannah York and Bruce Dern as contestants in the brutal contest and Gig Young as the m.c. and was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Pollack won the best director Oscar and Young best supporting actor Oscar. Pollack also won the Director’s Guild Award.
Popular during the Depression, marathon dances were endurance contests that were won not by the best dancers but by the people who remained upright the longest, and were one measure of the desperation many people suffered in the 1930s.
The movie was based on a novel of the same name by Horace McCoy. The screenplay was written by James Poe and Robert E. Thompson.
The marathon contest took place in the La Monica Ballroom on the pier. When it was built in the early 1920s, it was the largest ballroom on the West Coast and one of the most elaborate, but, by the late 1950s, it was worn and shabby, was used, briefly, as a roller rink, and torn down in 1962. While some exterior shots were done on the Pier, the interior ballroom scenes were shot on a sound stage.
The screening is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Aero Theater, 1328 Montana.
Pollack and Joe Morgenstern, a Santa Monica resident who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism, will introduce the film, and take part in a Q&A following the film.
The Aero was built in 1940 by aviation pioneer Donald Douglas and is one of the few remaining neighborhood theaters in L.A. It was recently restored and is now operated by American Cinematheque.
The screening is a benefit for the Conservancy. Tickets, which include refreshments, are $25 for Conservancy members, $30 for non-members, and $40 for the screening and a membership in the Conservancy. For tickets in advance, go to www.smconservancy.org. or call (310) 485-0399.The Conservancy is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, cultural and histories heritage of Santa Monica.