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The Big Wheel 1949
Description: The ambitious son of an accomplished race driver struggles to outrun his father's legacy and achieve his own successes.
Released: 04 Nov 1949 Director: Edward Ludwig Writers: Robert Smith (original screenplay) Actors: Mickey Rooney, Thomas Mitchell, Michael O'Shea, Mary Hatcher Genres: Action, Drama, Romance
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The Big Wheel Reviews:

Mickey Rooney gets a hero well-suited to his abilities, and the nice atmosphere at garages and auto racing tracks also supports create this a solid B-melodrama. The storyline follows a familiar pattern, but the setting is various enough to create it interesting.Rooney plays the son of a race driver who wants to establish a racing career of his own. The hero goes through a number of changes as his fortunes ebb and flow, and Rooney makes him believable at every stage. He had the ability to be sympathetic when necessary, and he also had the knack of making a hero turn abrasive in a believable fashion. Here, it supports to flesh out a familiar plot.Most of the another characters are one-dimensional, and are only there to give Rooney something to enjoy off of. An exception is Thomas Mitchell, whose skill at testing seemingly easy roles makes the garage owner into a believable hero in his own right.The auto racing settings are interesting, and although the racing sequences rely on stock footage, they are still enjoyable. The storyline takes Rooney's hero from hot rods to midget racers to the Indianapolis-style cars. It was set in what was then the present, and race fanatics in its audiences probably should have spotted some familiar cars. Now, it is also of interest as a decent recreation of the Indy racers of its day.


A powerful second-half made this Mickey Rooney movie 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 popular 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 vehicles average almost a hundred miles per hour faster today than when this film took place, it is so much safer. Check out what the drivers were wearing.....almost no protection.Even though the topics is race-car driving, this is not an untypical film of Rooney's. You'll know what I mean if you watch the film. Rooney plays the cocky tiny 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 movie noir named "Quicksand." Rooney should (can) act in about any genre. He is nice when you consider his career, which is still going at the age of 90!!! I mean, the man's been in more than 300 films and he's almost everytime very entertaining.The actress who played a girl who had a crush on "Billy Coy" (Rooney), Mary Hatcher ("Louise Riley"), was a cute and wholesome-looking actress, the type you don't see too much today on screen. She had a short film career but was a success on Broadway and had a fine singing voice. She doesn't sing in this film, just enjoy the faithful grease-monkey, a woman who pines for him but he's too stupid - most of the time - to see what he has in her.Meanwhile, the only current romance where something happens, is between two "old" folks, played by veteran screen stars Thomas Mitchell and Spring Byington.For a movie made 50 years ago, the driving scenes in here were very good, not just a stock footage filmed background. It now looks like, in some scenes at least, there is a vehicle just ahead of these driving filming the action, like you'd see in modern movies. Then they'd slash to a fake closeup of Rooney but, overall, it was done well for the time period. At the end, with the large race at Indy, they even had true aerial shots from some newest (late '40s) current Indy race.In all, not a terrible tiny flick. If you can stay with it through the first half, you'll be rewarded with a powerful finish and interesting race finale that is not clichéd.


This film screened today on BRIZ31 (Brisbane Community Television)1949, Indianapolis 500 was in it's 33rd year. Mickey Rooney played the difficult ass carby engine driver to a T! Sure, the backdrop of the nice race track was exactly that, with Rooney walking around as if he was now there, but let's face it, SFX was still 5-6 years away. :-) The storyline was quick paced and believable. Tough nut owners and their equally tough nut drivers. Punch ups were the method to settle an argument. Never mind a quiet talk.An enjoyable yarn, with typical Rooney satisfied ending. 8 stars of of 10 from me.



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