User Reviews (21)

Add a Review

  • As suggested in another review there was probably stuff left on the cutting room floor that would have filled in some holes in the plot. Still I disagree that we don't get the gist of this gripping melodrama or that the racing scenes aren't great. Cagney is a hard-boiled champion Indy driver, who goes a little psycho when his younger brother wants to follow in his footsteps. Suddenly, the girlfriend who loves him isn't good enough and her friend is a tramp. Before you can say "You dirty rat!", the two brothers are alienated and the girl is broken-hearted. This sets up a great rivalry on the track and some heated racing scenes.

    I beg to differ with the fussy earlier reviewer who lamented that the racing scenes were over edited. I found these scenes riveting and brilliant. Moreover, they convey a strong taste of a brand of racing long past where death was not so rare. They also show us film of some of the great cars of bygone days in action. Nowadays we are jaded with television cameras on board most high level events. But this footage rivals the modern one for pace and context with the advantage of placing us in a wilder sport. The track is more dangerous, the cars more primitive and of course modern racing is much more civilized.

    However, the character Cagney plays is remarkably like many modern day racing greats living and dead due to their daring ways. maybe in their childhood they saw Cagney in this flick.
  • Jimmy Cagney plays a race car driver who's at the top of his game. When he returns home to visit family, he's shocked to find that his much younger brother has also taken up racing. Despite Jimmy loving his work, he knows it's dangerous and wants better for his kid brother. This sets the stage for a major falling out between them and eventually the young whippersnapper actually surpasses Cagney--leading to a dandy conclusion.

    This is a very good, though not especially great film by Jimmy Cagney towards the beginning of his career. The acting, writing and direction are competent. However, just seven years later, the studio remade this movie--practically word-for-word in places and even using some of the same auto racing footage!!! Considering that the remake wasn't quite as good, lacked originality and lacked Cagney, I say it's best to stick with the original.

    By the way, remaking movies--often using pretty much the original script--was a common practice in the 1930s--especially at Warner Brothers. Again and again, films were recycled--sometimes only a couple years later!
  • ...instead it mainly confounds! Cagney did not like many of these early programmers that he got stuck in over at Warner Brothers. He felt them a waste. I would tend to disagree with him in most cases, but this time he was somewhat right.

    Cagney plays top line race car driver Joe Greer. He's sleeping with and really actually living with Lee Merrick (Anne Dvorak), plus he likes the booze. Cagney is taking a train to his home town and treats Lee like a tell-tale whiskey bottle. She has to be stowed away along with his booze or else his virginal green kid brother, Eddie, will somehow be corrupted by her. Nothing makes a girl feel like a tramp more than being treated like one. Plus, to add insult to insult, Joe thinks that any girl that is a friend of Lee's must be a tramp just because she's Lee's friend after all. What a jerk.

    During his trip home, Joe finds out Eddie (Eric Linden) has been trying his hand at racing himself, and in the end Joe decides to take Eddie under his wing and introduce him to professional racing. Well, this means that Lee can't travel around with Joe anymore, and he basically puts her in cold storage - seeming to continue to support her, but staying away. Lee convinces her friend, Anne (Joan Blondell) to break Eddie's heart and corrupt him so she can hurt Joe through Eddie.

    Well, life is what happens when you're making plans, and Anne and Eddie actually fall for each other, as in wanting to get married, something Joe never offered Lee. When Joe finds out that his kid brother has been corrupted by Anne, he tells her to lay off, but both Eddie and Anne tell Joe to kiss off. The topper is when Joe finds out that Lee arranged the whole thing and Joe promises revenge for all concerned out on the racetrack. These things never end well.

    A supporting character through this whole thing has been race car driver "Spud" (Frank McHugh). He's a nice guy, sober, everybody likes him, and he has an adoring wife and lovely kids. His baby's shoes are his good luck charm when he drives. So you just know in this rather obvious film you are waiting for two things - for Joe to wise up and eat a little humble pie and also for Spud to become mashed potatoes.

    I'll let you watch and see how this all turns out, but I think you'll see the ending from a mile away. The question I was left with was, what DOES Anne see in Eddie? He really projects no personality whatsoever, and though Eric Linden is actually just three years younger than Joan Blondell, the age difference between the characters seems much larger than that. It is not that Joan seems old, not at all. It's just that Eric Linden seems so two-dimensional. Even when Anne is trying to explain her love of Eddie to Lee, all she can ever say is "oh that kid".

    I'd recommend this one just to see that the success of some of Warner Brothers' precodes and early programmers lay in their talented cast, not in the script. This is a good example of that.
  • The seven is for the racing footage; I'd have to give the film as a whole something lower; this looks like a standard "programmer" from the period. I've seen "TCR" several times, and this time decided to watch it to try to determine where the racing footage was shot and what kind of cars these are.

    I have to (somewhat educatedly) guess that we're looking at the old Jeffrey's Ranch Speedway in Burbank in the first racing sequence. It was pretty close to the Warner back lot, and (according to racing historian Harold Osmer) in operation from '31 to '35.

    The stands are covered, and there are a lot of large trees close by, as well as equestrian facilities, all three items definitely not the case at Legion Ascot or Huntington Beach. I've been told that Culver City's half mile of that period did not have any equestrian facilities, either, which deals with all the tracks in the region in '31 and '32.

    The cars in these shots are largely Ford-Model-A-block / any-odd-freer-breathing-head, rear-drive, backyard/filling-station bombs on Ford rails rather than anything from Harry Miller's shop in nearby Vernon, though there might be an early Miller 200, 220 or 255 (the basis of the famed Leo-Goosen-designed, "Offy" 255/270 built by Offenhauser & Brisko and, later, Meyer & Drake).

    This is doubtful, however, as those engines and complete (usually two- or three-year-old) Miller chassis rarely ran anywhere but Legion Ascot in the LA area at that time.

    The second (nighttime) sequence is at Legion Ascot, and its 20,000 seats look to be pretty full, which, even when they weren't shooting a feature film, were pretty full even in the nadir of the Great Depression. Veteran dirt track fans will note that Ascot's oiled surface runs pretty much dust-free compared to the old horse track in Burbank.

    The third group of action sequences shot at the Brickyard feature top-of-the-line Miller and Deusey rails, as well as several of the very best drivers of the period including Fred Frame and Billy Arnold, both Indy winners (1930 and 1932, respectively; Lou Schneider won the '31 race in the Bowes Seal Fast Special seen momentarily here). Careful listeners will hear the unmistakable snarl of the early "Offy" fours in the background.

    Sadly, the sound era was just getting underway as the legendary Miller 91s and the incredible board tracks they ran on were phased out in '29. Open-wheel racing in the '30s was -good-, but OW racing in the previous decade (at tracks like Beverly Hills and Culver City) was as big -- and spectacular, and fast -- then as NASCAR is now on mile ovals.

    The Indy scenes feature the (more nearly "stock car") two-seaters and "poor man's" engines that were mandated at the time to reduce costs and break the high-tech/high-buck, Miller stranglehold of the late '20s. There were Deusies, Fords and even Studebakers running the big tracks in those days, but Harry Miller's cars and engines continued to dominate.
  • James Cagney must have felt darned silly greasing up, donning goggles, climbing into a race car, and making dumb faces while a rear-projection Indy 500 played behind him. He's an ace driver, a daredevil on the track and a cocky alpha male, mistreating his unconditionally supportive girlfriend and attempting to steer his uninteresting younger brother away from a racing career. The script's practically a textbook of genre cliches, from the best buddy whose death-on-wheels gives our hero a guilt complex to the sibling rivalry that is mysteriously resolved, offscreen, in the last reel. Cagney's justifiably celebrated skill and charm can't make us care about this misogynistic, unlikeable blowhard, nor can it make his rapid descent into drink, vagrancy, and hunger (or equally rapid rise back to the Indy) credible. Howard Hawks was already making fast-paced, psychologically sound male-bonding flicks, but even he's flummoxed by the hoary melodramatics of this one. The ladies have little to do but play weepy-loyal (Ann Dvorak) and sarcastic-loyal (Joan Blondell), but they come off best.
  • The Crowd Roars is probably the earliest sound feature film to be concerned with auto racing. It was probably a nice change of pace for James Cagney to get out on what was the NASCAR circuit of its day and not to be shooting people tied up with another mob.

    In the one film he made with Cagney, Howard Hawks does a fine job in recreating the auto racing scene of its day. Several names from those ancient days of the sport appear in this film and give it a nice air of authenticity.

    The problem with The Crowd Roars is that the story itself was very trite and ordinary. Younger brother Eric Linden wants to follow in Cagney's footsteps as a driver. Cagney's not crazy about his choice of female companionship in Joan Blondell. And Cagney's also reassessing his relationship with Ann Dvorak as well.

    Cagney's life takes an abrupt downhill turn when best friend Frank McHugh is killed. It's not unlike what happens to him in such better known Cagney films as The Roaring Twenties and Come Fill the Cup. Only this is a bit more melodramatic.

    I also wish there had been a bit more Guy Kibbee as Cagney and Linden's father to inject a note of levity in the proceedings.

    Away from the racing sequences The Crowd Roars is a rather unexciting melodrama which needed improvement other than cinematography in every department. Auto racing would have to wait for a film like Grand Prix to capture the flavor of it fully. This ain't no Grand Prix.
  • Hard-drinking racecar champ James Cagney (as Joe Greer) doesn't want hero-worshiping kid brother Eric Linden (as Eddie Greer) to join in any reindeer games. But, during a visit home, Mr. Cagney learns young Linden has been following in his brother's footsteps. Linden has become a racing enthusiast, with his own hot rod. Although Cagney is worried about risks of death or injury, he admires Linden's skill behind the wheel, and consents to take him on the circuit.

    Linden becomes a professional success; and, despite Cagney's attempts to protect him from booze and women, Linden finds both with leggy Joan Blondell (as Anne Scott). His brother's seduction results in Cagney having a falling out with mistress Ann Dvorak (as Lee Merrick), who wants Cagney to quit the dangerous sport, and marry her.

    Interestingly, the script identifies the appeal of racing (and this picture) twice, as "watching for wrecks and roaring for blood." Probably, 1932 audiences were more entertained than insulted. Cagney and the cast perform spectacularly, considering the weakness of material.

    ****** The Crowd Roars (4/16/32) Howard Hawks ~ James Cagney, Eric Linden, Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak
  • Crowd Roars, The (1932)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Standard Warner drama about a cocky race car driver (James Cagney) who brings his younger brother (Eric Linden) into the sport and soon the two have a falling out. Cagney eventually loses his nerve and falls from grace and must try to works his way back up. Hawks is credited with the story but it's somewhat hard to believe that he would come up with such a standard and typical story. The movie is entertaining due in large part to Cagney who once again turns in a good performance. He's his usual cocky self and the screenplay allows him to do things we've seen from him in the past including one scene where he gets tough with Ann Dvorak. Cagney shines the best during his breakdown scene, which comes off very well. Joan Blondell co-stars as Cagney's girl and she does a nice job as well. The story is very predictable and really doesn't have one original idea but there's some very good racing scenes. The screenplay is also quite hard on racing fans and the claim that all they want to see is blood. There's one violent death scene that happens during a race that is very memorable.
  • The title means that the crowd is expecting something exceptional will happen:they want blood .When in Rome,do as Romans do.

    Weren't it for the final scenes the screenplay would look like "a star is born" in the race cars .Two brothers ,one of them (Cagney) is a famous champion when his kid brother wants to follow suit.In spite of Big Brother's good piece of advice (see above),he carries on regardless of the warnings.They have women for them,the elder has Ann Dvorak whereas the kid brother falls for her friend (Joan Blondell).The old champion is not prepared to accept it either.

    The car races are well filmed for the time and make up for the paucity of the plot,which is entertaining though.
  • Enjoyable vehicle (in more ways than one) for James Cagney as a champion race car driver overprotective of his younger brother. Cagney's always fun to watch and roles like this were a dime a dozen for him. Eric Linden plays the brother and he's pretty corny but, given the time in which this was made, he doesn't stand out much. Joan Blondell is the sexy dame who sets out to seduce Linden, much to Cagney's disapproval. The lovely and underrated Ann Dvorak steals all of her scenes as the "wrong side of the tracks" girl pining after Jimmy. Great character actors Frank McHugh and Guy Kibbee add color to things. Howard Hawks directs and, as you might imagine if you're familiar with his work, he especially shines with the racing scenes. Lots of cameos from popular racing stars of the time, so I'm sure racing buffs will want to see it for that alone. It's an entertaining drama with some exceptional action scenes. It was remade by Warners just seven years later as Indianapolis Speedway, starring frequent Cagney costars Pat O'Brien and Ann Sheridan, as well as Frank McHugh in the same role he plays here. That version is OK but less gritty. It also reuses the script and even footage from this one.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For a three time Indy race champion, Jimmy Cagney's character Joe Greer isn't as flamboyant as some of the ones he portrayed in the handful of films prior to this one. There's the spark of "The Public Enemy" Tom Powers here when he manhandles Joan Blondell, and slaps around kid brother Eddie (Eric Linden). But the story is somewhat uneven with abrupt scene changes and much left to the imagination of the viewer to piece together the motivations of the lead players. Director Howard Hawks peppers the film with cameos of the leading race car drivers of the day, and for movie goers of the era, that was probably a cool feature, but for me, names like Billy Arnold, and Fred Frame don't carry any recognition. The highlight of the movie would probably be the race sequences, and they made me wonder why anyone would take up the profession with enough dust swirling around to blacken the features and choke every driver. I guess you had to love it.

    As a nostalgic period piece, the movie serves well to evoke memories of the California race tracks mentioned and shown in the story. Even back in the Thirties, it wouldn't be hard to imagine that the race announcer's statement about '100 death defying laps' was anything but accurate, probably even more so than today with all the safety features built into the cars and race track itself. You have to admit, there wasn't much between the drivers and their primitive looking machines to provide escape from serious injury or death. Which made it too bad for Cagney movie regular Frank McHugh, who had to pay the price for getting between Joe Greer (Cagney) and brother Eddie in one of the movie's defining races.

    I think another reviewer on this board had it right about the film's closing scene in which Cagney prods his ambulance driver to out race a competitor to the hospital. The need for speed can lead to all sorts of reckless behavior, and I wasn't so sure that the movie was finding fault with that as much as glorifying it for the thrill of the audience.
  • Reading through a lot of the reviews on here and seeing a lot of synopsis repeating and race fans slating the footage inclusions and it does make me smile. Firstly this was shot in the 1930's and filming Technics were so limited back then and i always find it quite humorous to see a fast film being played behind an actor steering an imaginary car in front...its what it was and its just great. this is not a dull movie its content about the story of a racing legend and his fight to keep his brother off the track is ok, yes the script is limited but lets not forget these early films were knocked out in two weeks and not like movies of today that sometimes take years. Again we have Cagney and Blondell staring together although they are not so close in this film they are two of my favourites. The rise and fall of a racing legend with some drama and tears, the crowd really does roar. overall a good clean print, no gangster roles in this but a great film, if you want a top notch film of nice cars in a racing capacity watch the Formula One World Championship...now that is fast and is boring with it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This fast speeding drama will appeal to those who love a day at the races. Not horse racing, not greyhounds, and not even the Marx Brothers, but high speed auto racing. Brothers James Cagney and Eric Linden disagree over Linden's getting involved in the sport, with veteran Cagney insistent that the young Linden isn't ready. They are also somehow involved with the same girls throughout the film, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak, but the romantic drama is secondary to the racing scenes, often scary, and in one sequence, quite deadly.

    Cagney shows why he is still considered one of the greatest screen actors ever, in one scene blubbering dramatically over the memory of a rather tragic accident. One thing this does make clear is how deeply the sport gets under their skin, as if every risk they take in having crack-ups or being charred alive is worth the thrill. The finale ambulance chase is hysterical in a very ironic way. In spite of the lack of a strong plot, this is worth viewing for Cagney's powerhouse performance and the racing sequences that challenge the later "Grand Prix" for suspense.
  • "The Crowd Roars" wouldn't be half as good if it wasn't for James Cagney. He had that knack for being able to carry a film if the plot was a bit ordinary or if the script wasn't up to much. The latter certainly applies to this film as the dialogue is pretty standard. However, Cagney in his energy and his delivery, adds a real zest to the story about a professional racing driver who becomes a bit too protective of his younger brother after he has ambitions to become a driver. When tragedy strikes, Cagney becomes a bit of a drifter who loses his sense of self-worth and his nerve regarding his career. Although Joan Blondell is billed second after James Cagney, she isn't really his leading lady. Their scenes are written so that they are opposites to each other as there is some tension between them. The scenes with the car races are very good and are exciting. Another winner for Cagney!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    . . . Ann Dvorak says to James Cagney after five minutes of THE CROWD ROARS. Warner Bros. feels that Ann's observation is so important that they have Cagney repeat it to his kid brother five minutes later for the benefit of theater late-comers. Was Warner cautioning ONLY contemporary audiences about "race" cars Snailing along at Today's Go-Kart pace with this line of dialog? Obviously not, since little if any effort is made toward Realism with THE CROWD ROARS' production. Depicting "Indy Cars" tooling around on a dirt half-mile horse track in blinding clouds of dust as their tires fray faster than Firestones in a desert surely was intended then (and now) to be taken as a metaphorical allegory by Warner Bros.' always prophetic Early Warning Providers. A few years following the release of THE CROWD ROARS, Warner's future Farm Team--MGM--rehashed the Racist Confederate Red Staters' perennial fascination with and hankering for Bloody Wrecks during the opening party scene of GONE WITH THE WIND. Because Southern Bigotry could not long survive without a Fellow Traveler, Warner itself dropped the other boot stomping America to death around the same time as MGM's yawner (the snooze-fest GWTW).

    Warner's CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY shows large subsets of the USA's Urban Population as they fall under the sway of Rich People Party Fascism. In THE CROWD ROARS, Cagney half-strangles his sister-in-law Joan Blondell and literally burns his employee "Spud" to death in front of Spud's family. The latter incident causes Cagney to complain about Air Pollution (anticipating the Real Life on-site Nazi Death Camp wive's lament a decade later), but Cagney doesn't give a thought to Spud's widow and child. This, of course, foreshadows the Deplorable Misogyny and Miserly Callousness later epitomized by America's Fascist President #45. THE CROWD ROARS' Irish-on-Irish violence takes GWTW's Racism to its ultimate extreme, as subtle clan and class distinctions cause Cagney to reject Blondell as being "beneath" his kid brother. Warner's implication is that only some sort of Incestual In-Breeding can satisfy these insular insecurities demanding a "Purer" Breed. Warner further warns us of the dangers of putting Trainwrecks on any ballot in America: The Confederate Nazis will rig the election for the Choo Choo Crash every time!
  • Fans of auto racing should like this one. There is lots of footage of old racing showing various crash scenes, drivers careening around tracks in cars without roofs (going through clouds of dirt!), and occasional fires on the track. Billy Arnold, Fred Frame, and many other real race drivers appear in the film, and there are scenes from Indianapolis, which had been racing the 500 since 1911.

    There is also a love story, though this is a Cagney-Blondell film in which the two are adversaries. Cagney is a race car driver who doesn't want to marry his girlfriend with benefits (Ann Dvorak), Blondell's friend, taking her for granted. He has a younger brother (Eric Linden) who also wants to race cars, and he hypocritically wants to protect him from booze and "loose women" like Dvorak and Blondell. Things get complicated when his brother falls for Blondell, and tragic when he causes the death of a fellow driver.

    This is not great cinema or anything, but it does have Cagney/Blondell, and an interesting story line, and it's unique with all of the vintage auto racing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In most ways this is a typical Warner Brothers product from the 30s or 40s. Plenty of action, fast dialog, a slap across the cheek, a punch in the snot locker, a young woman heartbroken, professional male solidarity, conflict within the organization, characters with names like Joe and Eddie and Spud, racing cars skidding perilously around the turns on a race track, and final redemption.

    Howard Hawks was fond of racing cars at the time, and remained so, but there isn't much of the director's signature visible here. Well, maybe some emerging part of a pattern. When practicable, the camera stays at eye level. And Ann Dvorak is hooked up with Cagney, she frets over whether she's "good enough." It must have been one of Hawks' favorite phrases because he used it, or variations on it, often over the next thirty years. Cary Grant to Jean Arthur in "Only Angels Have Wings" (1939), "You'd better be good." John Wayne to pal Ward Bond in "Rio Bravo" (1959), "You're not good enough." Sometimes Hawks adds or substitutes another favorite phrase: "Good luck to ya."

    The 20 and especially the 30s seem to have been decades in which hordes of daredevils were competing for speed records in one vehicle or another. Aviators like Wiley Post and Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh became famous. If you disappeared in the wild blue yonder, like Amelia Earhardt, they named a brand of luggage after you. The same thing was happening in automobile races here on earth. Half a dozen famous racing car drivers play themselves in this script. The only one that I'd ever heard of was Wilbur Shaw, but I assume at the time they had an abundance of celebrity.

    If there's nothing much new about the plot, there is one unusual scene. Frank McHugh, a Warners stalwart, is a driver whose car bursts into flame and who burns to death on the track. The shot of McHugh holding his face and screaming amid the flames is startling. And the other drivers having to pass through the smoke and the odor of McHugh's burning body is more literal than anything Hawks was to do with violence later in his career.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Here is a movie with a split personality; any scene with James Cagney in it is captivating: Cagney plays a generally unlikable race-car driver with his usual brand of fanatical intensity, and the wonderful tics that make Cagney Cagney: physically and psychologically manhandling the men and women around him, adjusting his tie and jacket with a formal roll of his shoulders, spitting out lines like a machine gun. Wonderful stuff! But when he is off screen, you may or may not care that much. The pace is fast, with classic Warner Brothers 1930's dialogue, but... Ann Dvorak gets tiresome with her endless weeping and paranoid, irrational devotion to a man (Cagney) who mistreats her so...and Eric Linden, as Cagney's little brother, is just plain not appealing, and his harsh New York City accent doesn't help. Joan Blondell is his girlfriend. It doesn't work, because she is a beautiful mature woman, and Linden looks to be about 14 years old.

    There are some interesting things to look for in this film. Frank McHugh, Cagney's best and most ubiquitous Warner's supporting actor, plays, unusually, a wise married man, rather than his normal unattached, not too bright hanger-on. He does still get to do famous high-pitched "ha...ha" laugh a couple of times.

    Being a pre-Code film, look for unmarried couples in the film living in sin! And as noted by other writers, the old racing films are quite fascinating, but the endless close-ups of Cagney, Linden and NcHugh pretending to drive in front of obviously fake projection screens are tiresome indeed.

    Cagney's work toward the end of the film, when he plays a contrite and humbled Joe Greer, is extremely appealing, probably the best scenes in the movie. There is something quietly awesome about this little man with a critical mass of energy, desperately hanging on to a last thread of self-respect and dignity. These are beautifully acted indeed. And the scene where his tightly-wound emotions finally bubble to the surface and he collapses in sobs is definitely a highlight moment, one that I can watch over and over again.

    Keep your eyes on Cagney, and you won't be disappointed. And in these little throwaway movies that Warner relentlessly pumped out in the 30's, does the plot even really matter? Just give me more Cagney!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This race-car drama, directed by Howard Hawks, was a personal project of his: Hawks had a lifelong passion for stock-car racing, and he persuaded several top racers to appear in this film as themselves (although demonstrating very little screen presence). I was expecting 'The Crowd Roars' to be quintessential Hawks: a two-fisted he-man drama, with the girly stuff kept to a minimum. In the event, I was surprised at how much 'chick-flick' material is in here, and pleasantly surprised at how well it works. A substantial amount of this movie is emotional drama between the four leads, in the implausibly spacious apartments occupied by the characters played by Ann Dvorak and Joan Blondell.

    James Cagney stars as Joe Greer, a stock-car driver at the top of the game: he's just won the Indy 500, and his hero-worshipping kid brother Eddie is eager to follow in his skid marks. Eddie is played by obscure actor Eric Linden, whose Noo Yawk accent blends well with Cagney's, but who otherwise failed to convince me that they were brothers. Annoyingly, Cagney attempts to dissuade Linden with that cliché "It's not for you" dialogue that I've heard in a dozen other movies: the one where the guy who's hugely successful in his profession attempts to convince someone else to stay out of that same profession. Guy Kibbee, in a tiny role as the Greer brothers' father, is excellent and absolutely convincing as the proud dad.

    Cagney has a poorly-defined romance with Dvorak, who spends all of her screen time in monotone mode ... except for one emotional monologue in which she turns on the waterworks and is surprisingly effective. Dvorak's friend is played by Joan Blondell, so I expected this role to be played in Blondell's usual 'weary dearie' mode. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. Elsewhere, I've mentioned that I always find Blondell coarse and common on screen. Here, she's amazingly good: she wears a tasteful outfit that shows off a couple of shapely gams. (When did they turn into hams?) This is the only movie in which I've seen Blondell play a realistic human being instead of a bundle of clichés. But we still get some of the standard Warners thick-ear dialogue: 'Ya can't grow wings on that guy.'

    The racing scenes, necessarily, involve editing these actors into authentic stock-racing footage, so there's unavoidably some very bad shot matching. What's less pardonable (because it was more avoidable) is some very bad audio matching on the soundtrack. We *see* thousands of people in the stands, all reacting as a race car bursts into flames ... but we *hear* what sounds like maybe six women squealing. Almost as if to make up for this lapse, during the chick-flick scenes there is some very scrupulous shot matching. I was especially impressed by a two-camera set-up in a dialogue scene between Dvorak and Frank McHugh. He holds a lighted cigarette in his hand throughout the scene, and the smoke in Dvorak's set-up matches the smoke in McHugh's set-up. Also, McHugh's cigarette is burnt down to the same length in both set-ups. Most movies aren't this careful!

    Obscure actress Charlotte Merriam, as McHugh's wife, has one powerful scene in which she rushes onto the track during an auto race, like a suffragette at the Grand National. (The undercranking here is obvious.) It's a shame that this scene did nothing for Merriam's career. Character actor Edward McWade has one excellent sequence.

    This movie is more confusing than it needs to be. There are two different characters cried Red, and two named Spud. Cagney and Linden spend most of the movie as rivals, but there's a last-minute reconciliation that seems to have been left on the cutting-room floor: it certainly isn't in the movie.

    SPOILERS COMING. The last scene in the movie finds Cagney and Linden in an ambulance, bound for hospital, with two rival drivers bound for the same hospital in another ambulance. With one of those would-be 'cute' Hollywood touches, the two sets of passengers urge the ambulance drivers to race each other through the streets. I really despise the cult of speed for the sake of speed: every year, a few innocent people get killed because of idiots who think that a public highway is their personal dragstrip. Race-car driving doesn't work very well as a vehicle for macho movie heroes, since it relies so heavily on stunt doubles, stock footage and (in this case, very badly done) rear projection. The romantic scenes in 'The Crowd Roars' actually work better than the macho gearshift stuff, and I'll rate this movie just 5 out of 10.
  • lugonian7 March 2010
    THE CROWD ROARS (Warner Brothers, 1932), directed by Howard Hawks, is a fast-pace drama revolving around auto racing at the Indianapolis speedway as indicated prior to the opening credits with racing cars speeding down the track as one goes out of control, causing the crowd at the grand stand to rise from their seats and, hence the title, the crowd roars! Starring James Cagney, whose gangster/tough guy image emerged with his ground breaking title role as THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931), continues to play a tough guy, this time from behind the wheel aiming for the finish line.

    The story, written by its director, with screen adaptation by Kubec Glasmon, John Bright, Seton I. Miller and Niven Bush, finds Joe Greer (James Cagney), a three time Indianapolis driving champion, returning to his home town by train to meet with his kid brother, Eddie (Eric Linden) and Pop (Guy Kibbee), whom he hasn't seen in four years. Although loved by his mistress, Lee Merrick (Ann Dvorak - in her Warner Brothers debut), and much to her resentment, Joe intends on keeping their relationship a secret. However, Eddie, who hero worships Joe, wants to be a race car driver just like him. At first Joe tries to discourage him, but eventually paves the way for him in the racing game. Their relationship as brothers falters when Eddie encounters Lee's best friend, Ann Scott (Joan Blondell), a woman with a reputation. Going against Joe's orders, Ann goes after Eddie in spite, but instead, falls in love and marries him. During one of their races, Spud Connors (Frank McHugh), Joe's relief driver and best friend, tries to prevent the feuding brothers from going against each other on the track by driving between them, but is killed in the process, causing Joe to hit the skids while Eddie takes Joe's former title as championship racer. Regardless of how he put her aside, Lee makes every effort to locate Joe, who has disappeared from view.

    Also appearing in the cast are Charlotte Merriam (Ruth Connors); Ronnie Cosbey (Mike Connors); and Edward McWade (Tom Beal), whose roles go without credit. Guy Kibbee, who seems to have appeared in every Warner Brothers production at that time, is seen only during the film's initial 10 minutes, by which then his Pop Greer character drifts out of the story and never seen or mentioned again.

    THE CROWD ROARS has the great distinction for having its racing scenes filmed on location at Indianapolis at Ventura and Ascot race tracks rather than rear projection from inside of the studio, as well as having actual auto drivers, William Arnold, Ralph Hepburn, Leo Nomis, Stubby Stubblefield and Shorty Cantlon, appearing briefly as themselves, some whose scenes are handicapped by their weak acting. As much as the leading actors work well together, particularly the conceded Cagney along with the weakling kid brother-type, Linden. it seems a pity that the individual dramatic scenes enacted by Ann Dvorak and Joan Blondell were not handled on a more natural or convincing level. Their emotional screeching outbursts (Blondell's repeated lines to Cagney, "Tell him!") weakens what what might emerged as one of the film's strong points. This sort of "over-the-top" acting might have been common practice at the time, considering how director Hawks worked the same method on Dvorak's emotions opposite Paul Muni in the crime drama, SCARFACE (United Artists, 1932). Later in 1932, Dvorak appeared in possibly her finest performance captured on film in THREE ON A MATCH opposite Joan Blondell, while Blondell and Linden would re-team again in the rarely seen BIG CITY BLUES, where Linden was the central character.

    In 1938, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a film titled THE CROWD ROARS starring Robert Taylor and Maureen O'Sullivan, which was not a remake but another well made sports theme revolving around professional boxing. However, Warners did remake its own CROWD ROARS as INDIANAPOLIS SPEEDWAY (1939) starring Pat O'Brien, Ann Sheridan, Gale Page, John Payne in the Cagney, Blondell, Dvorak and Linden roles, with Frank McHugh playing "Spud" Connors once again. Comparing both films, whenever presented on Turner Classic Movies, the remake, being 15 minutes longer than the original's 70 minute length, plays better acting wise by its actresses, though the earlier version is better served due to the charisma of Cagney, which explains why the original played longer on commercial television in the New York City area up to the mid 1980s than INDIANAPOLIS SPEEDWAY, which ceased TV circulation around the late 1960s. Besides some good racing sequences and cast of familiar Warner Brothers stock players, THE CROWD ROARS is rather ordinary material made good by Cagney's dynamic appeal. (***)
  • I found it interesting that only one previous reviewer mentioned the poor matching of actual footage and rear projection of the racing scenes. For me they were a deal breaker. In virtually every switch the position of the cars changed. On the dirt track the announcer said the younger brother's car was in front while the footage showed it third. At Indy where the numbers 2 and 4 cars are shown way out front, the rear project shows them back in the field. These mistakes aren't rare, the are consistent. And when the cars run through the burning gas slick, it's obvious that after a few circuits someone poured more on the track. Come on guys! What could have been an exciting film just turned into head-shaker for me.

    On the other hand, the women in the film held it together with excellent acting. Ann Dvorak's opening scenes where she expresses her fears are especially noteworthy. Joan Blondell is fine as the love interest and no-nonsense wife. The men are just cardboard characters. A real misfire.