Polo has a long history of appearances on the silver screen. The most notable being the 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman. Given its long on-screen history, it’s no surprise that off-screen, a host of celebrities have enjoyed playing and watching the sport in their leisure time.
In the 1930s and 40s polo was at its most popular in Hollywood. Famous personalities who played at the time included Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Will Rogers, and Walt Disney.
Will Rogers, who was famous for his work on silent films, was renowned as a lifelong promoter of the sport. In 1926, he bought land in the Pacific Palisades and built a polo field. Rogers also convinced his good friend Walt Disney to take up polo, and even started calling him ‘Mickey’ during games. Never one to miss an opportunity to practice, Walt installed a polo hitting cage at Disney Studios and a dummy horse at his home. In 1935 Walt created the animated film Mickey’s Polo Team.
The Will Rogers Polo Club was founded in 1953 and matches are still played there to this day, including the star-studded Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic - the ultimate polo event, featuring a polo match, champagne, and celebrity photo opps galore.
Across the pond British actor Leslie Howard, famous for his role in Gone with the Wind, was also an avid polo player. He was a respected competitor and decent horseman, but also remained a humble sportsman who regularly attributed his skills to his good horses.
In the 1960’s, two-time Academy Award winner Spencer Tracy became a renowned polo celebrity. Known for his roles in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Spencer trained at the Riviera Polo Club in Santa Monica nearly every morning before going to work at the studio.
Tommy Lee Jones, Academy Award winner known for his roles in Men in Black and No Country for Old Men was an active polo player for more than 20 years. His San Saba team played in Florida, Texas, and Argentina. His wife Dawn Jones is also a successful player on the North American circuit, winning the U.S. Open Women’s Championship in 2017, amongst numerous other titles.
Sylvester Stallone also has a long history with the sport of polo. His father Frank Stallone played polo professionally in Italy before immigrating to the United States. Sylvester learned to play at Potomac Polo Club at 11 years of age. He’s best known for his famous quote, “Playing polo is like playing golf during an earthquake.”
In California, actor William Devane was a popular player throughout the 1990s and was known for bringing celebrity colleagues out to the Eldorado Polo Club, including Stefanie Powers and Jill St. John. Eldorado was home to the Barbara Sinatra Skins Polo Event for years, which hosted Frank and Barbara Sinatra, Merv Griffin, and other celebrities, who helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Barbara’s children’s charity.
Other polo celebrities include English model and racing driver Jodie Kidd, Kenney Jones (the drummer for The Who), and Mike Rutherford (English musician and founding member of Genesis and Mike and the Mechanics).
The most well-known of polo’s famous faces is the Royal Family. The late Prince Phillip, King Charles and his sons Princes William and Harry are all avid polo players and supporters regularly suiting up for charity matches. Harry, since moving to California in 2020, became a member of Santa Barbara Polo Club and joined fellow celebrity Ralph Lauren model Nacho Figueras on the Los Padres polo team. Harry’s wife, actress Meghan Markle can also be spotted on the sidelines in Santa Barbara.
However, it isn’t just on the field where famous faces can be spotted. The sidelines have always been a popular place for celebrity sightings. Joan Crawford and Ginger Rogers were known for always exuding style at polo matches decades ago, and more recently, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde have set the stage on the sidelines at star-studded polo events.
To those well acquainted with the sport, the world’s top professional players are the true celebrities of polo. The top names in the sport include Adolfo Cambiaso and his son Poroto, Pablo MacDonough, Juan Martin Nero, Pelon Stirling, the Castagnola Brothers, and the Pieres family, to name just a few.