Friday, 1 July 2016

Film Friday: Thunder Road 1958


Next up on my DVD shelf is 1958's Thunder Road, a film chock full of Robert Mitchum goodness.

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A veteran comes home from the Korean War to the mountains and takes over the family moonshining business. He has to battle big-city gangsters who are trying to take over the business and the police who are trying to put him in prison.
 


Thunder Road is a black and white 1958 drama about running moonshine in the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee in the late 1950s. It was directed by Arthur Ripley and starred Robert Mitchum, who also produced the film, co-wrote the screenplay, and is rumored to have directed much of the film himself. He also co-wrote (with Don Raye) the theme song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road" and sang it too. A man of many talents!


 The role of Robin was offered to Elvis Presley, who was very interested, but the idea was nixed by Presley's manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker, who demanded more money for Presley's services than the producers were willing to spend. The role ultimately went to Mitchum's son James.
 


The film was the inspiration for the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name.


 The 1950 Ford that Robert Mitchum drives in the beginning is actually a 1951 Ford with a 1950 grille, and the chrome wind splits removed. The give-away: the V-8 emblems, the "Ford Custom" emblems on the front fenders, the dashboard, and steering wheel.


The locations heard in the song "Thunder Road" (sung by Mitchum) actually describe real places in East Tennessee and Kentucky. The "Thunder Road" route runs south from Harlan, KY through The Cumberland Gap to Maynardville, TN just north of Knoxville. The moonshine runner then goes through downtown Knoxville and onto Kingston Pike where he crashes on Bearden Hill (Bearden is a Knoxville suburb). The route is easily followed on a map.


Did you know ... All of the "moonrunner" cars in the film had actually been used by moonshiners in the Asheville, North Carolina, area, where the film was shot. The moonshiners sold the cars to the film company in order to buy newer and faster cars.