19 user 1 critic

The Big Wheel (1949)

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.


Edward Ludwig


Robert Smith (original screenplay)

Watch Now

With Prime Video





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 Charles Irwin ... Drunk
Kippee Valez Kippee Valez ... Carla
Denver Pyle ... Doctor


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


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


Action | Drama | Romance | Sport


Approved | See all certifications »






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


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


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 »


When Billy chases Happy Lee to tell him that his wheel is coming loose, Happy's car dies and Billy crashes into him. Both men are driving midgets, but the cutaway to stock footage of the wreck shows a roadster rolling over in flames. See more »


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 »


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 »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A Lot To Prove
9 December 2010 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Mickey Rooney's first film after leaving MGM was this independent production for United Artists, The Big Wheel. This is a racetrack story done with hardly the budget of Le Mans or Grand Prix or even MGM's racing story To Please A Lady that Clark Gable did with Barbara Stanwyck two years later. Still it has a nice cast with good location shooting at various racetracks climaxing of course with Indianapolis 500.

The Mick's got a lot to prove, he's the son of a racing legend who lived a fast life, died at the Indianapolis 500 and left widow Spring Byington to raise Mickey by herself. She's had of late though Thomas Mitchell who was her husband's old mechanic and he's now courting Byington.

Because of his attitude Rooney doesn't win many friends at the racing circuit. When Steve Brodie is killed, a lot of the drivers especially Michael O'Shea blame Rooney. And it comes out a lot of them disliked his father for some of the same personality traits and more.

Mickey's got two girls in this one, Mary Hatcher daughter of race car owner Richard Lane and sultry singer Lina Romay. He has to the end of the picture to figure out which one is really in his corner.

The Big Wheel is not a great picture, but it was better than some of what Rooney was doing after World War II at MGM. For the most part they still saw him as a kid over there. The Big Wheel let Mickey Rooney grow up and for that it should be considered a milestone film in his career.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 19 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed