There was a lot of kvetching around the time of the Bicentennial that nothing really appropriate and/or lasting in the arts had been created to celebrate America’s 200th birthday. In retrospect, it seems there were many wonderful things created in 1976 and one of my favorite tributes to freedom would have to be the Warner Brothers classic, “The Gumball Rally.”
Directed with love and care by Chuck Bail, “The Gumball Rally” does for coast-to-coast driving what “Genevieve” did for The Brighton to London antique car run, Robert Altman’s “Nashville” did for country music and Baz Luhrmann’s “Strictly Ballroom” did for dance competitions. The film shows a group of auto fanatics who zap through the states virtually non-stop at over 90 mph for the sheer hell of it. The award is a trophy filled with gumballs, but that’s not why they participate. They love their cars, they love the freedom of the road, they love the camaraderie that comes from a truly thrilling shared experience and the second that it’s over, they love the fact that they can do it all over again if they want to and all of them do.
As the original trailer proudly tells us, the cars are the stars and they, not the great cast, are listed. Camero, Corvette, Cobra, Porsche, Ferrari, Rolls Royce and the intrepid Kawasaki motorcycle driven by Harvey Jason. The other vehicles are driven by an ensemble cast that works together like a dream: Michael Sarrazin, Nicholas Pryor, Gary Busey, John Durren, Susan Flannery, Joanne Nail, Steven Keats, Wally Taylor, Tricia O’Neal, Lazaro Perez and best of all, the late great Tim McIntire as Smith and Raul Julia as Franco. With swashbuckling flair, Julia rips out his rear view mirror and announces that what’s behind him is not important. No one simmers better than McIntire and no one does flamboyant better than Julia, so they’re a joy to watch as a comedic team.
The most loveable challengers are 75 year old J. Pat O’Malley and 66 year old Vaughn Taylor, who got as big a bang out of the cross country dash (from NYC to Long Beach, CA) as their younger competitors. It’s an exhilarating 107 minute ride and even if it’s something you’ll never do, you’ll have fun watching “The Gumball Rally” in action.
© 2008 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 1/26/08
The Gumball Rally
USA - 1976