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The Big Wheel (1949) Poster

(1949)

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.
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Hattie McDaniel's last movie.
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The movie is set in the fictional town of Carrell, California. However, this name is taken from an actual race track, Carrell Speedway in Gardena, California, where some of the racing scenes were filmed. Carrell Speedway existed from 1940 to 1954 on land owned by Judge Frank R. Carrell and predates the more well-remembered Ascot Park which opened in 1957 several blocks to the south.
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The portion of the film set in Indianapolis used footage shot at the actual 1949 Indy 500 time trials and race, and other footage at the track. Other than Mickey Rooney's character Billy Coy, driving car #6, most of the drivers and car numbers cited by the announcer in the movie were the actual entrants in that race. Car #6 was actually driven by Lee Wallard who completed only 55 laps of the race. As in the movie, the race was won by #7, Bill Holland, but he actually won by a huge margin and didn't relinquish the trophy to another driver.
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In this film Wilbur Shaw, as president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was well-qualified to drive the pace car in the actual 1949 race used in this film. Prior to managing IMS he was the 2nd three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 & only back-to-back winner ('39, '40). His book "Gentlemen Start Your Engines" is considered the primer for the Golden Age of auto racing in the United States.
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Spring Byington loved the Indianapolis area so much that she chose to live there in the early 50s and was a local TV star with her own show and specials with parts in many other shows on local TV stations.
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Home video versions of the film run under 89 minutes.
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