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According to a January 1951 article in the racing magazine Speed Age, Clark Gable informed M-G-M that he wanted to appear in an automobile racing picture a short time after he visited Indianapolis in 1947. The studio spent two years searching for the right script for Gable and eventually came up with a story written by Barr Lyndon and Marge Decker. According to a news item in Daily Variety, M-G-M paid $50,000 for the film rights to Lyndon and Decker's story. Various contemporary news items in Daily Variety relate the following information about the production: Robert Pirosh worked on the screenplay for several months before withdrawing from the assignment in December 1949. Pirosh reportedly left the picture because of a creative dispute with Dore Schary, Vice President in Charge of Production at M-G-M, and the extent of his contribution to the released film has not been determined. The screenwriting assignment was eventually handed to Lyndon and Decker.
According to a June 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M originally planned the film as a starring vehicle for Gable and Lana Turner. Stanwyck was announced as Gable's co-star in a September 1949 Daily Variety news item. Director Clarence Brown was a former automobile test driver and had owned and managed a car sales agency before entering films in 1915. Several real-life race car drivers and racing officials appeared in the film, including drivers Duane Carter, Johnnie Parsons, Henry Banks and Walt Faulkner, and Indianapolis announcer Ted Husing. Daily Variety news items list Tim Ryan, and professional race car drivers Joie Chitwood, Cecil Green and Jack McGrath in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. William C. McGaw plays Chitwood in the picture. Cay Forester was announced for a featured role, but she did not appear in the final film.
According to an April 1950 Daily Variety news item, the film was the first to feature auto racing scenes photographed at actual speed. The news item notes that previous racing films were "undercranked" by cameramen to create the illusion of speed. The Daily Variety news item also notes that Indianapolis race car driver Manuel Ayulo was hired by M-G-M to drive the specially equipped camera car that traveled ahead of the race cars and filmed them at racing speed. Much of the film was shot on location at the Indianapolis Speedway in Indiana. Some background filming also took place in Syracuse, NY, and at the Culver City Stadium in Culver City, CA. Filming of the dirt track auto race took place on location in Arlington Downs, TX. Wilbur Shaw, the president of the Indianapolis Speedway Association and a former race car driver, served as a technical advisor on the film.
Production on the film was originally set to begin in December 1949 but was delayed until April 1950 to coincide with the Indianapolis Speedway Decoration Day [Memorial Day] auto race in May. The film opened to mixed reviews, with many critics dismissing the plot as insignificant while commending the racing sequences. The film was re-released as Red Hot Wheels. John Hodiak and Donna Reed played the starring roles in the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the story on November 26, 1951.