Film Review and Rating / Synopsis

(Please note the films reviewed on this site contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.)

  • Speedway (1929) - Plot Summary - Silent romantic comedy starring William Haines as Bill Whipple, a cocky mechanic/race car driver in town for the "The Indianapolis Speedway" race where we meet a couple of other drivers -- Mac (Ernest Torrence), the old timer with heart trouble who thinks of Bill like a son and has been trying to win this race for 17 years, and Renny, a driver not opposed to using dirty tricks to win. Now, Bill Whipple is a skirt-chasing braggart, so sure of himself it's pretty annoying - and, even more annoying, he's seriously immature. At a local greasy spoon he indulges in goofball antics with the waitress and when a pretty girl named Pat (Anita Page) arrives at the diner, he goes crazy with tricks to get her into the seat next to him, then all sorts of juvenile stunts to try to impress her, what with spinning his plate on a knife and assorted other dumb stuff. (His pick-up line: "What a break for you - meeting me with the world full of men!") She pretty much leaves in a huff - but that don't stop our Bill as he chases her out the door, hops into her car, and keeps changing hats between their heads in such an overbearing, aggressive manner that I wouldn't have blamed her if she had broken down and cried out of frustration! Okay, here's the weird part - typical of filmland, she seems to secretly like him as she, by coincidence, arrives at the auto race course to meet her "boyfriend" Renny, of all things. When Bill gets sent by Mac to "fly" to Chicago for a quick trip to get some needed gear, Bill has fear of flying - but he can't show it when he ends up in a little open cockpit plane flown by Pat, girl flyer! She decides to get even with him by doing all sorts of stunt flying in the air, but ends up in his arms as they must parachute for safety when the wing falls off (!). And onto the big race finale, the running of the Indie 500, where Bill is tricked by Renny into abandoning his partnership with Mac and racing for him in the race. It sure doesn't help matters when Bill gets double-crossed - and Mac fails the medical exam and can't race 'cause of his heart. And the race is on - will Bill end up with a chance to race after all, will Mac be able to live out his dream of winning, will Bill end up with the girl?

    Review - This late era silent film was the last silent that both stars William Haines and Anita Page would star in, before venturing into talkies. Haines plays the same character here that he plays in just about every film he's in, though he usually comes across as a bit more likable. There's not a lot of chemistry between him and Anita Page, an appealing actress but she really isn't given as meaty of a role here as I would have liked. I thought this film was just "okay", kind of like the filmmakers were making a half-hearted attempt at putting together a sort of story here in an effort to show what they really wanted to show - real life action footage filmed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 500 mile race. The stunt flying scenes were done to a nice effect and the film definitely benefits a lot from on-location photography. Watch for actor Karl Dane in a small part as one of Mac's mechanics crew, and actress Polly Moran as the waitress. This film was screened on TCM (Turner Classic Movies channel) and featured a pretty nice print along with original synchronized music and sound effects. Rating - * 7/10 stars *

    Director: Harry Beaumont
    Film Genre: Romantic Comedy / Sport Action
    Film Runtime: 76 minutes

Links / Resources


10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

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