6 user 2 critic

Burn 'Em Up O'Connor (1939)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, Crime | 13 January 1939 (USA)
A series of identical accidents kills racing drivers, but a dim-witted mechanic suspects they were not accidents.


Edward Sedgwick


Malcolm Campbell (novel) (as Sir Malcolm Campbell), Milton Merlin (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Dennis O'Keefe ... Jerry O'Connor
Cecilia Parker ... Jane Delano
Nat Pendleton ... Buddy Buttle
Harry Carey ... P. G. 'Pinky' Delano
Addison Richards ... Ed Eberhart
Charley Grapewin ... 'Doc' Heath
Alan Curtis ... Jose 'Rocks' Rivera
Tom Neal ... 'Hank' Hogan
Tom Collins ... 'Lefty' Simmons
Frank Orth ... Tim 'Mac' McKelvy
Frank M. Thomas ... Jim Nixon
Si Jenks ... Mr. Jenkins
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Clayton Moore ... Hospital Interne (as Jack Carlton)


Racing car enthusiast Jerry O'Connor and his dim-witted mechanic, Buddy Buttle, get their chance to join the crew of race car builder Pinky Delano, who just suffered a setback when one of his drivers was killed by failing to make a turn on the track. Then, one by one, his other drivers suffer the same fate, until it is Jerry's turn to drive in the big race. Buddy tries an experiment and determines these were no accidents but is it too late to help Jerry, who has started the race? Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

13 January 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

En lek med döden See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film's television premiere took place in Los Angeles Wednesday 3 July 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11); it first aired in Hartford CT 9 September 1957 on WHCT (Channel 18), in Altoona PA 13 September 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), in Omaha 16 September 1957 on WOW (Channel 6), in Norfolk VA 7 October 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), in Philadelphia 16 October 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), in Chicago 29 October 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), in Cleveland 13 November 1957 on KYW (Channel 3), and, finally, in San Francisco 19 July 1958 on KGO (Channel 7); O'Connor finally burned his way to New York City 5 December 1960 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »


Referenced in Electrical Power (1938) See more »

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User Reviews

I loved the historic cars and was amused by the characters. Suspend your disbelief!
6 June 2018 | by skrauss-07190See all my reviews

I just watched my DVR of "Burn 'Em Up O'Connor" again last night. First, let's understand something. No truly GOOD racing movies exist except possibly for "Grand Prix," "LeMans," "Rush." and some documentaries. Directors were just too lazy and felt that spectacle could replace good writing. Even "To Please a Lady," is too simplistic and inaccurate.

That doesn't mean that we can't enjoy the stylized, often cliche'-ridden efforts of the past. If you love racing history and its heroes, then you have to put up with the banal efforts of the deep past and enjoy the actual footage and drivers' cameo roles, etc.

So what makes this one worthwhile? How about appearances and actual use of three of the more iconic cars in Indianapolis "500" history, the Stevens/Winfield car built for 3-time winner Lou Meyer and the two Sparks/Adams cars built for Joel Thorne? Apparently Thorne drove in this movie and furnished these cars as well as the ex-Pirrung car built by Wilbur Shaw for the 1935 "500." That car finished second with Shaw, before his three wins, and 9th with Thorne in 1938, the year this film was made. The Stevens/Winfield car and the Thorne-Sparks (Adams) cars were all built for the 1938 "500", the year this movie was obviously filmed for 1939 release. They had a bad race that year, finishing 14th, 15th, and 16th. However they then became iconic with long lives an, track records, two 2nd places and a win. Three-time winner Meyer retired after a famous filmed flip in 1939 in his attempt from 2nd place to catch Shaw. Several plastic-toy models were made of the Thorne-Sparks cars, including a Wen-Mac engined model of a decade later. There are also other, lesser known, but actual cars of the time on the movie set. Background action footage features the great Ted Horne hogging in early scenes and Shaw and Meyer winning in 1937 and 1938. At least we car enthusiasts can put up with cartoonish characters and dumb plot to see some racing and cars that made history.

I enjoyed the hell out of this film, regardless of it's simple stereotypical characters. Give it a break!

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