19 user 1 critic

The Big Wheel (1949)

Approved | | Action, Drama, Romance | 4 November 1949 (USA)
A brash young midget car race driver lives in the shadow of his famous father, a drunken womanizer, who was killed in an accident years earlier.



(original screenplay)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mary Hatcher ...
Lou Riley
Mary Coy
Dolores Raymond
Minnie (as Hattie McDaniels)
Deacon Jones
Reno Riley (as Dick Lane)
Eddie Kane ...
Charles Irwin ...
Kippee Valez ...


Billy Coy comes to Carrell. His late father's mechanic Red hires Billy as a mechanic. Soon, Billy gets a job as a driver. Written by Daniel Ljungberg <meen@df.lth.se>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


It's restless, reckless ROONEY in the most exciting thrill-a-minute role of his career! See more »


Action | Drama | Romance | Sport


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 November 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Thundering Wheels  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The portion of the film set in Indianapolis used footage shot at the actual 1949 Indy 500 time trials and race, and other footage at the track. Other than Mickey Rooney's character Billy Coy, driving car #6, most of the drivers and car numbers cited by the announcer in the movie were the actual entrants in that race. Car #6 was actually driven by Lee Wallard who completed only 55 laps of the race. As in the movie, the race was won by #7, Bill Holland, but he actually won by a huge margin and didn't relinquish the trophy to another driver. See more »


Lina Romay's character is called "Dolores Raymond" in the film and the name is spelled that way on the sign in the nightclub scene. However, the character is listed as "Dolores Ramon" in the end credits. See more »


Billy Coy: [Opining about Louise to Happy Lee] She's a sharpie.
Happy Lee: Oh, sharp as scissors and twice as snippy!
Billy Coy: [to Louise] Is he nuts?
Happy Lee: Sure, I'm a race driver, aren't I?
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film opens with the following written acknowledgements: "Grateful acknowledgement for their invaluable assistance is made to the AAA, the URA, the Racing Drivers of America, the Indianapolis Speedway and Mr. Wilbur Shaw." See more »


Referenced in American Pickers: What Happens in Sturgis... (2012) See more »


Que Bueno
Written by Kermit Goell and Fred Spielman
Sung by Lina Romay at nightclub
See more »

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User Reviews

Look out its the start of a long skid for Rooney!
30 July 2013 | by See all my reviews

The first picture of Mickey's decline from stardom after the previous year's Words and Music where his terrible performance pretty much ended his tenure at MGM. It's fitting that it's a racing movie because it's a skid picture for the Mick without question.

After years of the plush surroundings at Metro this low budget loser must have come as a rude shock. He's overly earnest as was typical of his starring career which was endurable in parts where he was the brash teenage Andy Hardy and similar roles but as he aged became arch and annoying. The story is standard cocky hothead knocked down a few pegs until his learns the necessary life lessons junk but if you're a race fan and don't mind the obvious rear projection shots it a certain entertainment value.

What's great about these old Hollywood films is that even in an economy production like this the film is full of quality character actors who had more latitude in moving between studios, genres and types of productions. This one has a supporting cast better than it deserves with three greats in the cast, Spring Byington, Thomas Mitchell and in a small part Hattie McDaniel, this was her last theatrical feature.

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