Director: Howard Hawks
Genre(s): Action, Drama, Romance, Sport
Runtime: 85 minutes (original version), 70 minutes (TCM version)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
The 1932 auto racing drama The Crowd Roars was one of the few films James Cagney did that could be considered an action picture. As motor racer Joe Greer (James Cagney) returns to his hometown, he devotes his time to keeping his brother Eddie (Eric Linden) out of the dangerous sport, while mostly ignoring his girl, Lee Merrick (Ann Dvorak). The surviving prints of this movie are only seventy minutes long, so it makes for reasonably taut entertainment.
Of course, the primary draws for this flick are the racing sequences. Not only are they perilous in the context of the story, they look pretty hazardous for those filming them. The automobiles during the races have open-air cockpits, so dirt flying all over the place easily hinders vision. There are some dated special effects during the action, but it doesn’t really detract from the experience.
However, this feature isn’t only about the need for speed. It has a sizeable romantic subplot that takes up just as much time as the auto racing. It’s rather important to the overall story, so excising it from the picture would be near-impossible. Toss in some Great Depression-era desperation, and you’ve got a winning sports drama with a well-rounded plot.
The Crowd Roars was made during the Pre-Code era of Hollywood, prior to the enforcement of the Production Code. It’s directed by the legendary Howard Hawks (whose far-better Scarface  hit theaters the same year), but I’m not sure if I’d describe it as an all-time American classic. Still, it’s very watchable and greatly benefits from the Cagney Factor. A remake, Indianapolis Speedway (1939), was later released, with Frank McHugh playing the same role as he did in the original.
My rating is 7 outta 10.