Made during the formative 70s years of Jeff Bridges' enduring career after he exploded onto the scene with 'The Last Picture Show', 'The Last American Hero' is unjustly overlooked cinema, possibly because of all the other car films of the era overshadowing it.
Jeff Bridges and Valerie Perrine starred in the 20th Century Fox movie "The Last American Hero" released in 1973. The NASCAR Cup action shots were all taken during the September 1972 Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The movie was loosely based on the Tom Wolfe book originating with his series about Junior Johnson that first appeared in Esquire Magazine circa 1965. The actual race was a knockdown/dragout bumping and framming duel between Bobby Allison in the Junior Johnson Coke machine #12 Monte Carlo and Richard Petty in the #43 STP Dodge. Unlike the movie, the #43 won the race, not the #12. 20th Century Fox had a cameraman on his belly between the azaleas and boxwods in turns 1/2 just below my seat. I was at the race with my good friend Jerry Jackson - plant manager of the Wrangler Jeans plant in Bethel, NC. Jerry would be killed on New Years Eve 1972 in a car crash just outside of Stantonsburg, NC. The photos are 20th Century Fox publicity stills shot at Martinsville during filming.
"The Last American Hero" (FS1, 6:00 p.m. ET Wednesday) is absolute must-watch for fans of old-school NASCAR, great sportswriting, or American journalism. Don’t miss it.