Cast & Crew
Edwin L. Marin
At Emery Motors in Los Angeles, new company publicist Jane Mitchell is almost as impressed with the plant as engineer Frank Lawson and test driver Terry Martin are with her. While Terry and Frank take her on a tour of the factory, Jane learns that Terry is trying to perfect a new carburetor with Clarence Maxmillian Haggerty, known as "Gadget," his mechanic, and is adamantly against any interference from trained engineers such as Frank. A few days later, Terry invites Jane to a company dance, but she refuses because she has too much work. When she also refuses Frank for the same reason, though, he says that he told another woman that he couldn't go to the dance with her because he was taking Jane. Wanting to help Frank out of an embarrassing situation, Jane agrees to go with him. Josephine "Jo" Sanderson, a former secretary who is now an executive and the woman who asked Frank to escort her to the dance, is in love with him, but his feelings have cooled toward her since her advancement. At the dance, Terry assumes that Jane lied to him about having too much work, and she feels guilty. She then decides to help him without his knowledge and arranges for company president Mr. Dean to finance his carburetor. Dean agrees, but only on the stipulation that a qualified engineer helps. Frank is assigned, and he and Terry uneasily work together. When they are at a stage where Frank thinks that they are ready, Mr. Dean agrees to let them enter the Indianapolis 500 race to test the new design. Terry doesn't think they are ready, but reluctantly agrees. After the trials, Terry is still concerned, but Frank insists that everything is all right, and Terry drives in the race. Something goes wrong, however, and they crash, leaving Gadget critically injured and Terry hospitalized with a concussion. A bitter Terry lashes out at Jane, who realizes how much she cares for him, but cannot make him understand that she has tried to help. He accuses her of only being out for the money and prestige he would have gotten if he had won the race, and sends her away. Soon Terry is back at work, but the company will no longer finance work on the carburetor. Jane then secretly appeals to company owner Emery, whom no one but Mr. Dean knows is her uncle, and they agree to finance Terry's attempt to break the land-speed record. Some time later, at Medoc dry lake, everyone watches as Terry goes down the track and swerves off after completing the first half of the course. By rules of the contest he must complete the return trip within thirty minutes, which now seems impossible. Frank and the others rush to the car and find that Terry has almost been asphyxiated and urgently needs a doctor. Frank puts Terry back in the car and races back down the length of the course, not stopping until he arrives at the hospital in town. When Terry awakens, he learns that Frank's quick action not only saved his life, but earned the new land-speed record for the car. Terry also learns that Jane is really the heiress to Emery Motors and has been secretly helping him all along. Realizing that Jane and Terry are in love with each other, Frank calls the delighted Jo and suggests that they drive back to Los Angeles together.
Edwin L. Marin
Harry H. Poppe
Edwin B. Willis
Speed was partially inspired by a real event - Malcolm Campbell breaking the world's speed record for an automobile (he drove a Bluebird). The event took place on September 3, 1935 at the Bonneville Salt Flats and MGM wanted to capitalize on the public's interest in it by following up with a similar story. Stewart plays Terry Martin, a test driver for the Emory Automobile Company, who is trying to perfect a new high-speed carburetor. Cocky and ambitious, Terry also pursues the company's attractive new public relations representative, Jane Mitchell (Wendy Barrie), who just happens to be the niece of the company's boss. A rivalry for Jane with fellow engineer Frank Lawson (Weldon Heyburn) creates complications for Terry but after surviving a race car accident at the Indianapolis speedway, he is sufficiently humbled and a better man for it.
Even though Speed was Stewart's first starring vehicle it was little more than a glorified B-movie, clocking in at just under sixty-six minutes. MGM had arranged with Chrysler Motors in advance to use their equipment, cars, buildings and testing grounds for the film and there is also a great deal of footage devoted to the automobile assembly line process in a Detroit factory. If it wasn't for the slim love story angle, Speed could almost pass as an infomercial for the car industry. But even if the film didn't exactly maintain the pace of its title, it's not without interest for Stewart fans and some of the cinematography by Lester White (high-speed races filmed through the windshield of the test car) is exciting. Though Stewart would later recall little about the making of Speed, he did retain one important memory of it. In A Wonderful Life: The Films and Career of James Stewart by Tony Thomas, the actor remembered that his co-star Ted Healy gave him some invaluable advice as an actor: "He told me to think of the audience not simply as watchers but as collaborators, as sort of partners in the project. He was right, and that helped me in my attitude toward the business."
Producer: Lucien Hubbard
Director: Edwin L. Marin
Screenplay: Milton Krims (story), Lawrence Bachmann (story), Michael Fessier
Cinematography: Lester White
Film Editing: Ben Lewis
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Edward Ward
Cast: James Stewart (Terry Martin), Wendy Barrie (Jane Mitchell), Una Merkel (Josephine Sanderson), Weldon Heyburn (Frank Lawson), Ted Healy (Clarence "Gadget" Haggerty), Ralph Morgan (Mr. Dean).
by Jeff Stafford
Archive footage of an actual Indianapolis 500 race is included in the movie.
The end of the film has a fictional recreation of Sir Malcolm Campbell's record-breaking 300 mph drive at the Utah Salt Beds. However, his book,"My Thirty Years of Speed", published a year earlier, was not used as the basis of this movie.
Variety mistakenly lists the director as Edward rather than Edwin L. Marin. A pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter notes that Albert DeMond and Larry Bachman were to collaborate on the script for this film, however, DeMond's name is not listed in any other source and his participation in the film cannot be confirmed. Another Hollywood Reporter news item noted that M-G-M used the Chrysler testing grounds in Detroit for portions of the film. According to Daily Variety, race footage of an actual Indianapolis 500 race was included in the picture, and the race at the end of the film was a fictionalized recreation of the 300 m.p.h. speed record set by Sir Malcolm Campbell at the Utah Salt Beds. Although Campbell authored a book entitled Speed, that book is not related to this film. Actress Patricia Wilder, a popular radio personality known as "Honeychile," made her motion picture debut in the film.