43: The Petty Story (November 1, 1972)
Released on November 1, 1972: A light-hearted story about legendary father and son race car drivers Lee and Richard Petty.
Produced by Bill Rowland
Directed by Edward J. Lasko
Written by Edward J. Lasko
The Actors: Darren McGavin (Lee Petty), Richard Petty (himself), Kathie Browne (Elizabeth), Noah Beery Jr. (Julie), L.Q. Jones (Ed Kohler), Lynne Marta (Lynda Petty), Pierre Jalbert (Curtis Cross), William Alspaugh (Philips), Temi Moffit (Susan), Joel Brown (Richard at age 7), James Morris (Richard at age 17), Les Atkins (the promoter), Timmy Petty (Maurice at age 5), Alan Edwards (Maurice at age 15), Hal Reed (reporter), Blossom Terry (girl in bar), Tony Lorea (drunk), Maurice Petty (himself), Dale Inman (himself), Jerry Whittington (pool player)
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A Man's Gotta Do What He's Gotta Do
Lee Petty was the first race car driver to win the first Daytona 500 in a brand new 1959 Oldsmobile with the number 42 on the side, and his son Richard, age 22, drove a 1957 Oldsmobile convertible with the number 43 on the side . . . and finished 57 out of 59 starters, completing only 8 laps before blowing his engine. Richard would go on to find even more fame on the Nascar race track than his pioneering father, racing around an asphalt track for the last time in 1991. Thanks to this independently made movie we can watch the real Richard Petty in 1972 and enjoy the spills and thrills of the men who "just gotta do what they gotta do" . . . As I watched this story many decades after it was filmed, I could still feel the fire and energy of the men as they competed against each other with every atom of their being, inside the fastest automobiles that could be built by the best mechanics of the day. Darren McGavin plays the part of father Lee Petty, who raced for the final time at Watkins Glen in 1964, and was 58 years old when this was filmed in 1972. The story is divided between the story of Lee Petty and the genesis of stock car racing in the U.S. and son Richard as he rises to legendary status in 1972 and became known simply as 'The King.' The movie opens at the 1972 Charlotte Motor Speedway with the announcer saying that Lee Petty might be in the audience to watch his son Richard. As the 1972 race begins we flash back to the first time Lee Petty and young 7 year old Richard are caught accidentally in a moon-shine filled car in North Carolina. After a wild chase by a revenue agent Lee is permanently bit with the speed bug, and nothing else in his life or his young son's life means as much as racing the fastest cars they can find. Like many independent motion pictures that didn't have the technical backing of a large studio the quality of the sound is not the best, and the surviving prints are not the sharpest . . . but the racing scenes will still get your blood moving faster and the scenes from some of the finest days of stock car racing are simply amazing to watch. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
Darren McGavin as Lee Petty
Richard Petty at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1972