We’re chronicling 100 days of Indy 500 history on #SpeedRead leading up to the historic 100th Running. With 66 days to go, Jeff Vrabel continues exploring the many tie-ins between the Indy 500 and pop culture.
More Vrabel: “Turbo”-tastic | The Beatles at IMS | Pace Car drivers | Snake Pit rebirth | The ultimate “500” playlist | David Letterman, pit reporter | Indy 500 on Atari 2600 | On “Jeopardy!” | More 100 days blogs
The racing movie has a long and checkered history — yes, we did that on purpose, no we’re not proud of it, actually wait, we’re a little proud of it — that veers from “Cars” to “Days of Thunder” to “Rush” to at least one that stars a very fast and animated snail. But a lot of people say it started with Wallace Reid, a race-movie star of the 1910s and ’20s referred to as “the screen’s most perfect lover,” although to be fair that was written before Rob Schneider came around. Reid died in 1923, but the genre lived on in films like “Racing Hearts,” a silent comedy from 1923 that’s notable for featuring Reid’s screen replacement, Richard Dix, and a handful of actual drivers.
Evocatively described as “lost” on the internet, it’s a silent comedy film released in 1923. “WITHOUT A CIGAR HE’D BE LIKE A SHIP WITHOUT A SEA,” says the poster, featuring a well-appointed Dix and a Agnes Ayres in a red fur coat, so we’re really not sure what this all has to do with racing and we wish the movie was less lost. The plot summary is about an automobile maker who refuses to advertise, a daughter determined to get him publicity, some mistaken identities and a finale in which Ayres’s Ginger drives “to a thrilling victory!”
Notably, the film featured actual racing drivers Edward Hefferman, Jerry Wunderlich, Jimmy Murphy, Tommy Milton and Ralph DePalma, who all conveniently appear in the credits as “Racing Driver.” (There is also a character named Horatio Whipple, proving movie character naming pretty much topped out in 1923, at least until Cole Trickle.)