“I just messed it up. It’s as simple as that but the race scenes are pretty good.” - Howard Hawks on Red Line 7000
Red Line 7000 (1965) Car Race Scene
Red Line 7000 - 1965 (Original Poster)
Released: November 9, 1965 Running time 110 minutes
In 1921, the young Howard Hawks became fascinated with a silent film that was written, directed, and produced by Marshall Neilan. “Bits of Life” told multiple stories in a single narrative.
Hawks thought he’d like to try that someday. In this case, someday took forty-three years to come to fruition and when it did, the results were disappointing.
“Red Line 7000” follows the stories of three relationships involving stock car drivers and the women who fall in love with them. In addition to handling multiple stories, Hawks also wanted to show that he could make a commercially viable movie on a small budget.
To accomplish this task he hired a cast of young, virtually unknown actors and actresses to portray his three couples. Unfortunately, only two of these performers demonstrated any acting ability. James Caan, who played driver Mike Marsh, went on to have a brilliant career. Marianna Hill, who plays Mike’s eventual love interest Gabrielle, became a popular character actress.
As Hawks later confessed, “these two people could act and the others couldn’t.”
Validation of that remark can be found in the fact that two of those “others,” Gail Hire and John Robert Crawford, would never earn another film role.In addition to poor acting, the movie is handicapped by a script that seems better suited for a soap opera.
With the ever-reliable Leigh Brackett busy developing another script for Hawks, the aging director relied on George Kirgo, a television drama writer with no previous film writing experience to develop the tale that Hawks had sketched out for him.
After NASCAR racing action was filmed at the Firecracker 400 at Daytona Beach, the Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina, the National 400 at Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside International Speedway near Los Angeles, the crew was gathered together to film the story.
During his long and distinguished career, Howard Hawks had worked with some of the most talented actors and actresses in Hollywood. He regularly relied on their abilities to help him shape his movies while he was filming them. With this inexperienced cast, he did not have that luxury. Unable to coax the performances he desired, he eventually settled for an unusual number of over the shoulder shots and relied heavily on reactions to later dubbed dialogue.
As a result, Red Line 7000 lacks the flow and framing that distinguishes his best work.
For all its faults, the film does have a few interesting components. George Takei, who would later play Mr. Sulu on Star Trek, appears as racing team mechanic Kato. If you ever wanted to see Mr. Sulu dance the Pony, this is your chance.
The racing action is the true star of this movie. The opportunity to visit the rough and tumble days when Richard Petty, David Pearson, and others went fender to fender every week is an absolute joy for stock fans. While the story is weak, the racing is strong.
On a side note, Howard Hawks’ attempt to show that he could make a low budget film didn’t work out as planned. In the end, Red Line 7000 went about $1,100,000 over budget.
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks and Paul Helmick (associate producer)
By following the life and art of Howard Hawks one can capture the true essence of the Golden Age of Hollywood, as if slipping on special lenses that suddenly pull away the grain and glare to reveal an unforgettable time of Movie Magic.