Hollywood Movies
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Racing Hearts (1922)

While this silent film does not actually have the Indy Speedway in it, it does feature some of its star drivers. Hollywood would often use the stark scenery of the Mojave Desert, a mere 100 miles away, for the backdrop of its movies - especially westerns. In 1922, the lakebed was transformed from a horse trail into a racetrack. Real race car drivers appearred in the film: Edward Heffman, Jerry Wunderlich, Jimmy Murphy, Tommy Milton and Ralph DePalma.

"Racing Hearts" starred Agnes Ayres, Richard Dix and Jimmy Murphy. It was made by Paramount Studios.

SYNOPSIS: Because he refuses to advertise the automobiles he manufactures, John Kent's business is failing. In an effort to gain some publicity, his daughter, Virginia, has a racing car built while Kent is away. Kent's rival sends his son, Roddy Smith, to spy on the operations and bribes another worker to drive the car and throw the race. Virginia discovers the plot, cannot persuade Roddy to break his promise to drive his father's car, and enters the race herself. She drives to a thrilling victory and marries Roddy.

Speedway (1929)

Directed by : Harry Beaumont
Running Time: 82 minutes
Distributor: MGM

William Haines (I) .... Bill Whipple
Anita Page (I) .... Patricia
Ernest Torrence .... Jim MacDonald
Karl Dane .... Dugan
John Miljan .... Lee Renny
Eugenie Besserer .... Mrs. MacDonald

REVIEW by Ron Oliver:
Love & revenge, thrills & spills. A cocky young man. A beautiful young lady. A nasty celebrity racer and a decent old driver with a bad heart. They will all come together for the great Decoration Day Race at the Indianapolis SPEEDWAY

This is a fairly typical William Haines silent comedy. He chases pretty Anita Page throughout, engaging in antics so annoying they'd get him arrested today. Haines' personality is a bit much at times, but he is never anything less than entertaining. He benefits here by much location shooting at the famous Raceway.

The supporting cast is good: Ernest Torrence & Eugenie Besserer are the old driver & his wife who've taken Haines in like a son; Karl Dane is a good-natured, if slow-witted, mechanic; John Miljan is properly repugnant as the bad guy. The ubiquitous Polly Moran scores in her one scene as a frowzy hash house waitress.

REVIEW by Tony Fontana :
Bill Whipple is a happy-go-lucky mechanic for MacDonald who thinks that he is the worlds greatest driver and lover. Mac has treated Bill like a son since he took him in. One day at the track, Bill sees Pat Bannon, and tries his best to impress her, but to no avail. On his way to catch a flight, he tricks Pat into taking him to the airport and she gets even by taking him up in a plane. He hates to fly, but will not show her that he is afraid and when the plane breaks up, he is a hero for rescuing her. This gets him publicity and Renny offers him his car to drive in the Indianapolis 500. Bill breaks with Mac to drive the car and puts it on the pole for the race. Then Renny double crosses Bill and plans to drive the car himself since Bill has tuned it so well.

REVIEW by Hal Erickson:
This cookie-cutter William Haines vehicle was filmed in part at the Indianapolis Speedway. As usual, Haines plays a fresh young braggart, in this instance a cocky racecar driver. Somewhere along the line, he falls in love with Anita Page, the daughter of an airplane manufacturer. After a dash in the clouds with Page and her pop, Haines comes back to earth, determined to win the Big Race for the sake of his crusty old mentor Ernest Torrence. Although villain John Miljan tries to sabotage Haines' chances, our hero triumphs -- but not until after the usual meal of "humble pie" that all of Haines' characters were required to ingest.

James Cagney

The Crowd Roars (1932)

Director: Howard Hawks
Running Time: 85 minutes
Country of Origin: USA

James Cagney as Joe Greer
Joan Blondell as Anne Scott
Billy Arnold as himself
Ralph Hepburn as himself
Wilbur Shaw as himself
Shorty Cantlon as himself
Stubby Stubblefield as himself
Harry Hartz as himself

Movie Facts:
* Originally called the Roar of the Crowd, it was filmed at the Indianapolis , Ventura and Ascot race track.
* Actor Frank Mchugh had his frist role in a Cagney film , the two would become close buddies throughout their lives.
* Director Howard Hawks shot so much footage, that Lloyd Bacon used some in his film Indianapolis Speedway in 1939.

REVIEW by Mark Deming:
Howard Hawks directed this fast-paced auto racing drama. Joe Greer is a top-ranked race car driver; his younger brother Eddie (Eric Linden) wants to follow in Joe's footsteps, but Joe knows his brother's reckless side and tries to keep him away from the racer's life. Eddie, however, can't be dissuaded from a career on the track, and he turns out to like his women as fast as his cars when he gets involved with Ann. Joe's best friend Spud (Frank McHugh) tries to keep the feuding brothers apart, but his attempts to do so in the midst of a race leads to Spud's death. Joe is despondent after Spud's passing and gives up his career in racing, while Eddie becomes eligible for the Indianapolis 500. Joe grudgingly comes to the race to see his kid brother in action, but he gets the chance to redeem himself when Eddie is hurt and needs a driver to complete the race in his car. Racing legend Billy Arnold, who won the Indy 500 in 1930, advised the production.

You can view the original advertisement (trailer) for this film at TCM

Speed (1936)

Director: Edwin L. Marin
Running Time: 70 minutes
Country of Origin: USA

Jimmy Stewart
Wendy Barrie
Una Merkel

Synopsis by Turner Classic Movies:
Speed was partially inspired by a real event - Malcolm Campbell breaking the world's speed record for an automobile (he drove a Bluebird). The event took place on September 3, 1935 at the Bonneville Salt Flats and MGM wanted to capitalize on the public's interest in it by following up with a similar story. Stewart plays Terry Martin, a test driver for the Emory Automobile Company, who is trying to perfect a new high-speed carburetor. Cocky and ambitious, Terry also pursues the company's attractive new public relations representative, Jane Mitchell (Wendy Barrie), who just happens to be the niece of the company's boss. A rivalry for Jane with fellow engineer Frank Lawson (Weldon Heyburn) creates complications for Terry but after surviving a race car accident at the Indianapolis speedway, he is sufficiently humbled and a better man for it.

Even though Speed was Stewart's first starring vehicle it was little more than a glorified B-movie, clocking in at just under sixty-six minutes. MGM had arranged with Chrysler Motors in advance to use their equipment, cars, buildings and testing grounds for the film and there is also a great deal of footage devoted to the automobile assembly line process in a Detroit factory. If it wasn't for the slim love story angle, Speed could almost pass as an infomercial for the car industry. But even if the film didn't exactly maintain the pace of its title, it's not without interest for Stewart fans and some of the cinematography by Lester White (high-speed races filmed through the windshield of the test car) is exciting.

You can view the original advertisement (trailer) for this film at TCM


Indianapolis Speedway (1939)

(Also known as: DEVIL ON WHEELS)
Country of Origin: U.S.
Genre: Sports
Released By: Warner Bros.
Running Time: 85

From TVGuide
This remake of THE CROWD ROARS (1932) deviates little from the original Jimmy Cagney starrer, with Pat O'Brien in the lead role as Joe Greer, an auto racer who is determined to keep his younger brother, Eddie (John Payne), in school and away from the racetrack. Frustrated, Eddie takes a seat behind the wheel of someone else's car, and when he and Joe battle it out on the track, Joe's friend, Spud Connors (Frank McHugh, who enacted the same role in the original), is killed. Joe then begins a downward spiral that doesn't end until he has to take over for Eddie during the Indianapolis 500. Gale Page plays Joe's girl friend and Ann Sheridan is the woman who steals Eddie's heart. Though its racing scenes are relatively well done, this Lloyd Bacon-directed film finishes a distant second to Howard Hawks' superior original.

Find more information on this movie at Turner Classic Movies.

The Big Wheel movie

The Big Wheel (1949)

Starring: Mickey Rooney, Thomas Mitchell
Director: Edward Ludwig
Synopsis: The son of a race car driver who died in an accident on the track strives to follow in his father's footsteps in this drama.
Runtime: 92 minutes
Genre: Drama

From TVGuide
Mickey Rooney stars as Billy Coy, the racing-car driver son of the late, great auto racer Cannonball Coy, who was killed in the Indianapolis 500. While racing out West, the young Coy accidentally causes the death of another driver and, burdened with a reputation as a daredevil, he is unable to find an owner who will give him a car to race and is forced to move to the eastern circuit, where his name isn't a liability. Louise Riley (Mary Hatcher), who sticks with him through thin and thinner, is finally rewarded when Billy comes to his senses after finishing third at Indy, his car in flames.

You can buy this film at Amazon.com.

Neil Lynch
Brooklyn Park, MM
Date: 6 May 1999
My dad's crash is in this movie!

Perhaps the fondest memories of my father's life were those involving his one and only entry in the Indy 500 from 1949, the event chronicled in this movie. My dad, George Lynch, crashed after the first lap, hitting the wall in the first turn near the camera bay. The event is captured in the film, with the racetrack announcer calling his name. Figures that my dad's one and only Indy mishap is captured forever on film.

My comment:
I first learned that seat belts weren't invented before the 1950's when I saw this movie. The racers then even had the doorways cut off the cars! In the movie's footage from Indy, the many of the crashes had the drivers fall right out of their cars onto the track, sometimes in front of oncoming racers. WOoaa!

movie poster vhs

To Please a Lady (1950)

Synopsis: Description Romantic melodrama about the volatile love affair between a thrill-seeking racecar driver and an influential newspaper and radio columnist. Regina Forbes derides speed demon Mike Brannan in her column, convinced that his reckless driving was directly responsible for a racing rival's death. After being banned from the track and reduced to stunt driving, Brannan manages to clean up his act enough to get a shot at Indianapolis. Can he win the big race -- and Regina's love?
Released by: MGM
Director: Clarence Brown
Runtime: 91 minutes
Also Known As: Red Hot Wheels
Clark Gable .... Mike Brannan
Barbara Stanwyck .... Regina Forbes
Adolphe Menjou .... Gregg
Will Geer .... Jack Mackay
Roland Winters .... Dwight Barrington
William C. McGaw .... Joie Chitwood
Lela Bliss .... Regina's Secretary
Emory Parnell .... Mr. Wendall
Frank Jenks (I) .... Press Agent
Helen Spring .... Janie
Bill Hickman .... Mike's Pit Crew
Lew Smith .... Mike's Pit Crew
Ted Husing .... Himself

You can buy this film at Amazon.com.

Roar of the Crowd (1953)

Director: William Beaudine
Running Time: 71 minutes
Country of Origin: USA

Howard Duff as Johnny Tracy
Helene Stanley as Marcy Parker
Dave Willock as Ruster
Johnnie Parsons as himself
Manuel Ayulo as himself
Duke Nalon as himself
Henry Banks as himself

Synopsis: Johnny Tracy, son of veteran race driver Pop Tracy (Harry Shannon), is working his way up on the racing circuit, but is urged by his sweetheart, Marcy Parker, to give up the track if he wants to marry her. He persuades her to marry him on the promise that he will quit after racing once in the Indianapolis 500, but he is injured in a qualifying race and goes to work as a spark plug salesman for Mackey (Minor Watson), an old family friend. He is a failure at selling but Marcy changes her attitude towards his racing, and he qualifies for the 500.

Synopsis 2 by Hal Erickson: Attractively filmed in Cinecolor, Roar of the Crowd is a better-than-average actioner from Allied Artists. Howard Duff plays Johnny Tracy, scion of a racecar-driving family. Johnny wants a crack at the Indianapolis 500 above all else, but his girl friend Marcy Parker (Helene Stanley) wants him to quit the racetrack. Finally, a compromise is reached: Johnny will retire from racing if Marcy allows him to prepare for the 500. Alas, Johnny is injured in a pre-Indy accident, and it looks like he hasn't a chance. While the outcome is predictable, a few surprises still await the audience in the final reel. A few months before Roar of the Crowd went into release, stock footage from the racing sequences were seen in the Bowery Boys epic Jalopy.

1969 ad Winning movie

Winning (1969)

Runtime: 123 minutes
Director: James Goldstone
Paul Newman .... Frank Capua (Co-Executive Producer)
Joanne Woodward .... Elora Capua
Robert Wagner .... Luther Erding
Richard Thomas .... Charley
David Sheiner .... Crawford
Clu Gulager .... Larry
Barry Ford .... Bottineau
Karen Arthur .... Miss Dairy Queen
Bobby Unser .... Himself
Tony Hulman .... Himself

This film features tons of footage of the 500 race!

Frank Capua is a rising star on the race circuit who dreams of winning the big one--the Indianapolis 500. But to get there he runs the risk of losing his wife Elora to his rival, Luther Erding, and strains the relationship with his stepson.

Synopsis #2:
A credible drama of professional car racing. Newman, a winner on the track, is less heroic in his personal life after he meets and weds divorcée Woodward. The racing sequences leading to the Indianapolis 500 are superbly staged, and the cast are first-rate

You can buy this film at Amazon.com.

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