5.7/10
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20 user 2 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.

Director:

Edward Ludwig

Writer:

Robert Smith (original screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Mickey Rooney ... Billy Coy
Thomas Mitchell ... Red Stanley
Michael O'Shea ... Vic Sullivan
Mary Hatcher ... Lou Riley
Spring Byington ... Mary Coy
Steve Brodie ... Happy Lee
Lina Romay ... Dolores Raymond
Hattie McDaniel ... Minnie (as Hattie McDaniels)
Allen Jenkins ... George
Monte Blue ... Deacon Jones
Richard Lane ... Reno Riley (as Dick Lane)
Eddie Kane Eddie Kane ... Head Waiter
Charles Irwin ... Drunk
Kippee Valez Kippee Valez ... Carla
Denver Pyle ... Doctor
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Actually filmed at the famous Indianapolis 500-mile race classic and the nation's top speedways! See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | Romance | Sport

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 November 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Thundering Wheels See more »

Filming Locations:

Culver City, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the 33rd running of the Indianapolis 500 in 1949, Wilbur Shaw, the President of the Speedway, actually did drive the pace car, as the movie announcer had noted. See more »

Goofs

During qualifying in Billy Coy's first race in the hot rod, there is a substance (sand or oil dry) on the track surface, in turn one, during his warm-up lap, and during his first green flag lap. During the next 2 laps, turn one no long has the substance on it, but after Billy receives the checkered flag, the substance is back on the track, and tire tracks can be seen going through the substance. See more »

Quotes

Billy Coy: [Entering nightclub] Have you got a table for me, please?
Head Waiter: What is your name?
Billy Coy: Alexander Hamilton.
Head Waiter: [Looking at his reservation list] I'm sorry, I have no Hamilton here.
Billy Coy: [Offering a $10 bill] Well, I have a Hamilton HERE.
Head Waiter: Well, Mr. Hamilton, I have your table right at ringside. Right this way please.
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 »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
Indy.....Over 60 Years Ago
28 June 2010 | by ccthemovieman-1See all my reviews

A strong second-half made this Mickey Rooney film a decent one and definitely one of his historical value if you follow the Indianapolis 500 Race. It was fascinating to go back see footage of racing and the famous oval from 1949. Man, compared to what you see today, both around the outside and inside of the track, it's a shock to look back to see how much has changed. Even though cars average almost a hundred miles per hour faster today than when this movie took place, it is so much safer. Check out what the drivers were wearing.....almost no protection.

Even though the subject is race-car driving, this is not an untypical movie of Rooney's. You'll know what I mean if you watch the film. Rooney plays the cocky little guy (a la James Cagney) whose self-assuredness gets him far but not without periodic bouts with humility. By the way, Rooney, the following year, was convincing in a film noir called "Quicksand." Rooney could (can) act in about any genre. He is amazing when you consider his career, which is still going at the age of 90!!! I mean, the man's been in more than 300 movies and he's almost always very entertaining.

The actress who played a woman who had a crush on "Billy Coy" (Rooney), Mary Hatcher ("Louise Riley"), was a pretty and wholesome-looking actress, the kind you don't see too much today on screen. She had a short movie career but was a success on Broadway and had a fine singing voice. She doesn't sing in this film, just play the faithful grease-monkey, a girl who pines for him but he's too stupid - most of the time - to see what he has in her.

Meanwhile, the only actual romance where something happens, is between two "old" folks, played by veteran screen stars Thomas Mitchell and Spring Byington.

For a film made 50 years ago, the driving scenes in here were very good, not just a stock footage filmed background. It actually looks like, in some scenes at least, there is a car just ahead of these driving filming the action, like you'd see in modern movies. Then they'd cut to a fake closeup of Rooney but, overall, it was done well for the time period. At the end, with the big race at Indy, they even had real aerial shots from some recent (late '40s) actual Indy race.

In all, not a bad little flick. If you can stay with it through the first half, you'll be rewarded with a strong finish and interesting race finale that is not clichéd.


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