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)

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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


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) 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?


Home video versions of the film run under 89 minutes. 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 »


Red Stanley: [When Billy applies for a job] Sorry about the job, kid. I need another mechanic like I need a hole in my gas tank.
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

If it feels like you've seen this before, you probably have....or at least a film very much like it.
11 August 2014 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

"The Big Wheel" is not a bad movie. However, the plot is very, very familiar and although I hadn't seen this movie before, it sure felt that way as MANY films made during the 1930s, 40s and 50s had similar themes. So the film certainly won't get any kudos from me for originality. But, it is moderately engaging and isn't a bad time-passer.

Mickey Rooney plays Billy Coy--the son of a very famous race car driver that was killed years ago at the Indy 500. He's intent on following in his father's footsteps--well, as least as far as being a racing champ! But he's a bit too cocky and young and folks around him think that he's a bit too eager. However, it turns out he is very talented and has what it takes to win--provided he doesn't sabotage himself. In addition, his father's old pal (Thomas Mitchell) is intent on wooing the widow Coy (Spring Byington). What's to happen? See the film...or not.

Rooney and the rest of the cast were just fine in this film. There were some other similar films before it and the plot about a guy who alienates everyone but eventually learns humility and makes good is possibly one of the oldest clichés in films! Fortunately, the racing sequences are competently made and the film has enough going for it that you won't hate it. Not exactly a glowing endorsement, huh?

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