Thunder Road's golden anniversary celebrated downtown

By: Nick Bona, Lauren Davis Email
By: Nick Bona, Lauren Davis Email

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- Legend has it that on April 1st, 1954 a moon shiner lost control of his hot rod and was killed about 100 yards from WVLT’s studio in West Knoxville.

The legend became nationally known 50 years ago when Hollywood rebel Robert Mitchum co-wrote and started in the cult classic “Thunder Road.”

To celebrate the films golden anniversary, hundreds spent Sunday in Knoxville attending related events.

There were two showings of Thunder Road at the historic Tennessee Theatre on Gay Street. The matinee showing was sold out, packing 1,300 into its seats. The evening showing drew 500.

“They've generated a lot of excitement,” said Larry Hicks who was one of the audience members. “Earlier there was a crowd out here that was unbelievable. It looked like a sea of people!”

Ironically, outside the theater police helped shut down a block of Gay Street for a vintage hot rod show. Dozens of cars from Thunder Road’s era lined the curbs. They were driven in from across the country and each seemed to have an owner who drew some inspiration from the movie.

"I enjoy getting out and seeing the old cars,” said Jim Bacon, a hot rod collector and fan of Thunder Road. “I especially like the ones that were famous when they were hauling moonshine, 1940s and 1950s models.”

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