CAROLE LOMBARD - My Favorite Actress

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Great Race (1965)

The Great Race was on TCM last night as part of their Natalie Wood tribute and this epic comedy is still tremendously funny. The story of a go for broke automobile race in 1908 between dashing good guy Sir Leslie (a charming Tony Curtis) and arch-rival Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon in a terrific performance). The race begins in New York and goes to Paris by way of Siberia. Along for the ride is Leslie's right hand man Hezekiah (played by Keenan Wynn) and Fate's sidekick Max (Peter Falk). Also on board is TCM's star of the month Natalie Wood as Maggie Dubois (who is my favorite Natalie role she ever did....funny, sexy and take charge). Lemmon also does double duty as a royal prince. The Great Race is one of my favorite films as it has a constant barrage of slapstick and pratfalls and anything else you could want in a comedy. It's very large in scale, comparable to It's A Mad, Mad, Mad World and it features several cameos inlcuding Vivian Vance, Dorothy Provine, Larry Storch, Denver Pyle, and Ross Martin. It also features a rousing and amusing film score, the Professor Fate theme is to die for. It's awesome seeing Curtis and Lemmon paired up again after their classic Some Like It Hot. And great to see Natalie Wood in an all out comedy. I truly believe that comedy was her best genre even though she was very good in dramas too. I just enjoy her more in comedies like The Great Race. And wonderfully directed by Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther).While the film runs well over 2 and a half hours, it never drags. It will keep you entertained the entire time. One of the best comedies ever made.

Memorable Quotes:

Max: We gotta do something.
Professor Fate: Oh, don't worry. Before this iceberg melts and we drown like rats, we're going to do plenty.
Max: Yeah? What?
Professor Fate: We're gonna starve!

Maggie DuBois: You mean amazing because I'm a woman.
Professor Fate: The eternal struggle takes time, Max.


This movie is loosely based on an actual 1908 New York-to-Paris race. "The Leslie Special", four of which were built for the movie, was a loose interpretation of the 1907 Thomas Flyer that won the real race.

In the film's press kit, Natalie Wood divulges that she took fencing lessons, sidesaddle lessons and practiced smoking cigars, but her biggest challenge was driving the Stanley Steamer. The steering was difficult ("like turning a tractor, I suspect", she says) and going into reverse was nearly impossible.

During the pie throwing scene there is a running gag that The Great Leslie remains clean while everyone else is covered in pie. Tony Curtis was required to change clothes several times when he was accidentally splattered with debris from a pie that had hit someone else.

The pies used during the pie throwing scene were real, containing fruit, custard, whipped cream and other ingredients. Following this scene the crew devoured more than 300 leftover pies.


Lexie said...

I really loved Jack Lemmon in both parts, but especially the prince. the laugh and personality he brought to the character always made me laugh as well. The whole cast was wonderful. Ive seen the film twice (the other night on TCM was the 2nd time) and it was just as good seeing it again. I agree that Natalie was good with comedy, but it seems like she never really got credit for it. Probably because she seldom had roles in the genre, but after seeing the film you know she could easily keep up with the other comedic talents in the cast.

Dawn said...

Monty, The Great Race is a wonderful movie. I thought Jack Lemmon, stole the show as Professor Fate. Also loved his partner in crime Peter Falk, as his loyal sidekick Max. Together, they make a wonderful team.


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