Sep 26 2011

Film “Back Street” (1941) and the Vanderbilt Cup Race

No greater evidence of the success and fame of the Vanderbilt Cup Races emerged than when popular culture embraced it. In 1906, the races inspired a Broadway musical the "Vanderbilt Cup". Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand starred in a Mack Sennett film "Mabel at the Wheel"  with the actual 1914 Vanderbilt Cup Race in the background.  And yesterday, as noted by viewers Al Velocci and Joseph DeBono, the Turner Classic Movie network aired a 1941 movie  "Back Street" starring Charles Boyer, Margaret Sullavan and Richard Carlson, which included a fictional Vanderbilt Cup Race.

Based on the novel by Fannie Hurst, it tells the early 1900's story of a woman, Rae Smith (Sullavan), who falls in love with, and then becomes the mistress of, married banker Walter Louis Saxel (Boyer). Their affair continues throughout the rest of their lives, but he is never divorced from his wife. Rae is also pursued by Curt Stanton, played by Richard Carlson,  who is a co-founder of the flegling Stanward Automobile Company.


Back Street 1941 #14

Back Street 1941 #16


In the film, to promote his automobile company, Stanton enters the Stanward Special (#16) in a Vanderbilt Cup Race. Two of Barney Oldfield's racing cars were used in the brief race sequence, a 1909 six-cylinder Stearns and a 1912 four-cylinder Prince Henry Benz. Oldfield also served as the uncredited technical advisor for the sequence.


Stanton's race car captured the Vanderbilt Cup, but the victory was not enough to win over his true love.



Links to related posts and the Internet:

Archives: Vanderbilt Cup Races Films & Videos

1914 Vanderbilt Cup Race, Santa Monica, California



Archives: Broadway Musical "The Vanderbilt Cup"


Index: Archives on


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