CROWD ROARS, THE(director: Howard Hawks; screenwriters: John Bright/Niven Busch/Kubec Glasmon/based on a story by Seton I. Miller and Howard Hawks; cinematographers: Sidney Hickox/John Stumar; editor: Thomas Pratt; music: Leo F. Forbstein; cast: James Cagney (Joe Greer), Joan Blondell (Anne), Ann Dvorak (Lee Merrick), Eric Linden (Eddie Greer), Guy Kibbee (Dad Greer), Frank McHugh (Spud Connors), William Arnold (Bill Arnold), Leo Norris (Jim), Charlotte Merriam (Mrs. Spud Connors), Regis Toomey (Dick Wilbur), James P. Burtis (Mechanic), Sam Hayes (Announcer); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; Warner Bros.; 1932)
“Crosses the finish line as nothing more than routine.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Howard Hawks (“Hatari!”/”The Big Sleep”/”His Girl Friday “), a former racing driver, directs this racing car drama, a subject he knows very well and has filmed many times. This thin sports action film zooms along with plenty of great racing crash scenes and not so great romantic crashes; it crosses the finish line as nothing more than routine. Outdated and all-too-familiar, it maintains some heat mostly because of James Cagney’s usual cocky and manic overheated performance. It’s based on a story by Seton I. Miller and Howard Hawks; it’s written by John Bright, Niven Busch and Kubec Glasmon. It tells about the pitfalls of being a racing driver.
Hotshot champion driver Joe Greer (James Cagney) has been living in Los Angeles with his long-suffering girlfriend Lee Merrick (Ann Dvorak), who is disappointed he won’t marry her. After four years, Joe’s returning to his home town of Indianapolis to see his family. His hero worshiping gung-ho kid brother Eddie (Eric Linden) wants to follow in his footsteps and his garage owner father (Guy Kibbee) doesn’t mind, but Joe does and tries to discourage him but when he can’t hires the kid to be a driver on his team and takes him on the road. Joe tries to be protective of the kid, but in L.A. Lee gives the kid booze and as revenge for the ill way he treats her she sics her brassy seductive girlfriend Anne (Joan Blondell) on Eddie. The irate Joe breaks up with Lee over this incident. To Anne’s surprise, she actually falls in love with Eddie. But Joe, who is now drinking like a champ, has a spat with Eddie and the two go their separate ways. Joe’s assistant driver, the loyal family man Spud Connors (Frank McHugh), tries to get between the brothers during a race to keep them from crashing, but a drunken Joe drives him off the track and kills him. Joe takes his best pal Spud’s death to heart, and gets so downtrodden he starts losing at the track and living like a hobo. To the rescue comes Lee, who still can’t help loving Joe and travels to Indianapolis for the 500 race where she’s certain she’ll find him. When Eddie can’t race because of an injury, Joe who has been on the wagon since Spud’s death, takes over in the middle of the race and wins despite a bad tire. The brothers are reunited, and the last scene has them in an ambulance racing another team of drivers in an ambulance to the hospital.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway serves as the location for the climactic race; other racing scenes were shot at California’s Ventura Speedway and Ascot Speedway. Racing legend Billy Arnold, who won the Indy 500 in 1930, has a bit part and was a technical adviser.
REVIEWED ON 1/3/2008 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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