The Big Wheel
is a 1949 film starring Mickey Rooney and Thomas Mitchell (actor).
Billy Coy (Mickey Rooney) from Carrell in California wants to be a race car driver. He manages to get hired as a mechanic by Arthur "Red" Stanley (Thomas Mitchell (actor)) at his garage, after mentioning that he is the son of a famous driver called "Cannonball" Coy. Billy's father died in an accident at the Indianapolis 500 a few years ago.
Red used to be a mechanic working for Cannonball, and still has the hots for his widow, Billy's mother, Mary (Spring Byington).
At the garage, Billy befriends a tomboy named Louise Riley (Mary Hatcher), whose father owns the nearest racetrack. Soon Billy gets a chance to prove his skills as a driver in a qualifying race, but he is too arrogant to follow his employer's advice and is unsuccessful. He goes on to ask Louise to meet on Saturday night at the racetrack, and thinking it is a date, Louise makes an effort, putting on a dress and pumps. It turns out Billy needed her help with changing some carburetors, and Louise has to swallow and hide her disappointment.
Billy gets another chance to drive in a qualifying race, for another car owner. The car is green, which is the same color as the one his father drove when he crashed and burned. Despite the superstition, Billy drives in the race, but is pushed off the track by a driver named Vic Sullivan (Michael O'Shea (actor)). Billy survives the crash, and after another man driving for Deacon Jones injures his hand, Billy is offered to drive instead.
Billy wins the next race and gets to continue driving for Jones, together with the other driver, Happy Lee (Steve Brodie (actor)). But Billy manages to get arrested for speeding after a night out at a club, when he has too much to drink. Red comes to the rescue and bails him out, and contrary to Red's advice goes on to race that same night.
When the left rear wheel in Happy's car breaks during the race, Billy crashes into his car and Happy dies in the flames. After the race, the other drivers avoid Billy, and he is fired from Deacon Jones' garage. He decides to move from California.
Billy stays in contact with Louise, and promises to meet her again on the next Memorial Day, at the Indianapolis. He travels east and starts over as a race car driver. During the time he is gone, his mother and Red become a couple and get married.
On the day of the next Indianapolis, Mary, Red and Louise are all at the race track and about to watch Billy's return as he drives one of Red's cars. He drives well, but when he has only one lap left, the engine catches fire. He still finishes the race, ending up in third place, and manages to save himself by leaving the car just before it explodes in a sea of flames.
The winner gives the trophy to Billy for his bravery, and he reunites with Louise.
- Mickey Rooney ... Billy Coy
- Thomas Mitchell (actor) ... Arthur 'Red' Stanley
- Mary Hatcher ... Louise Riley
- Michael O'Shea (actor) ... Vic Sullivan
- Spring Byington ... Mary Coy
- Hattie McDaniel ... Minnie
- Steve Brodie (actor) ... Happy Lee
- Lina Romay ... Dolores Raymond
- Allen Jenkins ... George
- Richard Lane ... Reno Riley (billed as Dick Lane)
Category:American drama films
Category:1940s drama films
Category:United Artists films
Category:Films directed by Edward Ludwig
Category:Auto racing films