Snake and Mongoose movie

A true story that inspired a movie
By Archie Bosman
Pictures by NHRA

Snake & Mongoose movie premiere, Graumans Egyptian theater, Hollywood The Los Angeles premiere of the Snake & Mongoose movie brought a sense of occasion to the racing world on Monday evening, August 26. The new movie tells the tale of two of drag racing’s most illustrious drivers Don “Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “Mongoose” McEwen.

Held at the Egyptian theater on Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood—the venue for the movie industry’s first premiere in the early nineteen-twenties—invited guests began arriving at 4pm. By around 5:30 over 500 had gathered, including movie and racing celebrities, at which time they began their walk along the red carpet toward the theatre.

Snake and Mongoose movie poster

The banner promoting the Snake & Mongoose movie.

Movie cast, Tom McEwen, Richard Blake, Jesse Williams, Don Prudhomme

Tom McEwen (left) and Don Prudhomme (far right) with actors Richard Blake and Jesse Williams.

movie premiere event, Graumans Egyptian,  Current Funny Car, Ron Capps

Funny Car racer Ron Capps makes a brief appearance in the movie as Lou Baney of Yeakel Plymouth fame.

Don Prudhomme was the first Funny Car driver to exceed 250mph and won the NHRA Funny Car championship four times in his thirty-five year career. He retired in 1994 to manage his own team, and with driver Larry Dixon they won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 2002 and 2003. But by the end of the 2009 racing season inadequate sponsorship forced Don to disband the team and retire from drag racing.

Don Prudhomme was the first Funny Car driver to exceed 250mph and won the NHRA Funny Car championship four times in his thirty-five year career. He retired in 1994 to manage his own team, and with driver Larry Dixon they won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 2002 and 2003. But by the end of the 2009 racing season inadequate sponsorship forced Don to disband the team and retire from drag racing.

“We’d move a couple of paces then stop says,” McEwen, “I estimated there were 100 photojournalists taking pictures and conducting interviews, including the New York Times. It was an impressive affair—a much bigger event than I had expected. The place was packed and I was honored and gratified to feel part of it all.”

Earlier at 11am the first showing was reserved for the film-maker’s production people, which was followed by another performance at 2pm for the world’s press. “Afterward we were invited to Sadies,” commented McEwen, “a private night club adjacent to the theatre where we were treated to a $50,000 party with three or four open bars and sumptuous food. We revelled in the warmest hospitality—it was a high-class affair.”

Noah Wyle, Art Spear, E.R., Falling Skies,

Donnie Couch, former McEwen crew member, interviews actor Noah Wyle who plays Art Spear, VP of Mattel.

Leonardo Nam, Roland Leong, Hawaiian

The Hawaiian, Roland Leong (left) and his acting counterpart, Leonardo Nam.

Tom McEwen,  Richard Blake, Mongoose movie

Tom “Mongoose” McEwen and actor, Richard Blake

Film producer, mongoose, snake, Robin Broidy, script writer, Alan Paradise

Film producer Robin Broidy (left) with script writer Alan Paradise (far right)

Most memorable victory in 60 years of drag racing history

Former editor and talented racing writer Alan Paradise devoted eight months to writing the script and a further four months to completing the re-writes. His work spanned about 120 pages, each page representing a minute of screen time. Though the movie portrays racing rivalries, friendships, triumphs and tragedies, Paradise frames his narrative around McEwen’s memorable Funny Car victory at the 1978 NHRA U.S. Nationals.

It was here that McEwen defeated his former partner, arch rival and longtime friend Don Prudhomme in the final round. And it was memorable because Tom had fulfilled the dying wish of his thirteen-and-a-half-year-old son, Jamie, who had succumbed to leukemia 10 days earlier.

The Leukemia Society subsequently appointed Tom to their board of directors. As he toured the country’s race tracks he called on hospitals, visited children suffering the deadly disease, which is a cancer of the blood cells, and engaged in promotions to raise money for its cure until he retired.

Before the movie goes on general release on September 6, the two Southern Californians, Prudhomme (72) and McEwen (76), attended the Indianapolis premier August 29 in Avon, Indiana. The event was scheduled to coincide with this year’s NHRA Indy Nationals, an event both have attended for over fifty years.

Don Prudhomme, movie premiere Jesse Williams, Prudhomme,  video interview inside Egyptian theater, movie premiere, Grumans

 movie producer, Robin Broidy, NHRA President, Tom Compton

Tom Compton, President of NHRA, flanked by his daughter and Executive Producer, Robin Broidy.

McEwen interview, Speed Scene Live, former crewmembers, Donnie Couch

Speed Scene Live’s Donny Couch interviewing Tom McEwen

Roland Leong, Linda Vaughn, Prudhomme crew chief, Bob Brandt

Roland Leong with Linda Vaughn and Bob Brandt, Don Prudhomme’s former crew chief.

McEwen, Mongoose

Tom McEwen winner of three AHRA Funny Car Championships and five NHRA Funny Car national events. Both Prudhomme and McEwen have been inducted into the NHRA Hall of Fame.

The unmelancholy Tom:
The work ethic and the spirit of friendship

Far from an extinct volcano McEwen, now 76, works each day at Beckett Media’s California office at Yorba Linda. Handling clients’ advertising and editorial issues his latest contributions can be seen in Maximum Drive, a glorious upscale quarterly publication that celebrates the Muscle car, the street rod, and the custom rod.

When he retired from racing, McEwen became the inspiration behind Drag Racer, then a new magazine title launched by Mrs. Yee. Seventeen years later the publication, now available in Wal-mart stores, is owned by Beckett Media, yet Tom with longtime friend and Editor Pete Ward remains its driving force.

Though he works with gusto and acquaints with the best brains in the business, perhaps the ingredients that leave the most profound impression of the “Mongoose” are his experience and his temperament. Sales and rigidity don’t combine, and thus it has always been.

 

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