When I was a we lad, I loved watching old movies, I still do to this day. One of my faves, that I first saw around 30 years ago, is The Great Race. The local independent station WKBD Channel 50 out of Detroit showed a lot of afternoon movies and I got my first, albeit abridged, viewing of this spectacular movie. I can hear you laughing, but really, this is a great movie, this is farce of the highest order. I watched it again, for probably the 12th time last night, and I still laughed. That is good movie making..
Released in 1965, The Great Race had some pretty big movie stars in the cast, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and of course, Natalie Wood, to name but a few. With Blake Edwards, who later would be known for the Pink Panther movies, writing and directing, it was bound to provide a few laughs. Have Henry Mancini doing the music and you have a star studded lineup. But, it is a comedy after all, and a farce in the truest sense of the word.
Based on The Greatest Auto Race of 1908, the movie is about six entrants in an automobile race from New York to Paris. You have The Great Leslie(Tony Curtis) and his arch nemesis Professor Fate(Jack Lemmon) in the race of the century! Leslie, daredevil extraordinaire and all around good guy in white, we boo him. Our real hero is Professor Fate, daredevil wannabe and the man in black, as dastardly as they come, we cheer for him!
Of course, Miss DuBois(Natalie Wood),
reporter and suffragette is a fine counterpoint, not only funny, but
attractive in her quest to be one of the boys. How can one not like
her character! She has spunk! Who could blame The Great Leslie for
falling for her, even if he is a big jerk! Boo!
Professor Fate, inventor of a rocket on rails, a bicycle dirgible, a torpedo, and a submarine, all of which fail in spectacular fashion. But no my friends, he does not give up, oh no. He builds a car to take on Leslie in the race and it is ultra cool. With a horn out front to melt the ice, the ability to rise up to pass through flooded roads and a canon to fight off the pesky bandits, why, it is a technological masterpiece! Unlike Leslie who has his car built by the Webber Car Co., the great inventor Fate takes matters into his own hands.
Well then.. off they go and it is one disaster after another for Fate. Naturally, it is his bumbling assistant's fault, but still, the good Professor soldiers on. Now I love the brawl in the saloon, true slapstick comedy and a great scene. 'I need some fightin' room!' cracks me up. The pie fight near the end? Priceless comedy. Fate and his assistant, Maximillan Mean, are Laurel and Hardy in their antics.
Of course critics were not too found of the movie but it was in the top ten grossing movies for 1965. Of course Tony Curtis is good and Jack Lemmon is brilliant. If you like slapstick comedy and a bit of outrageous stunts and story, why then this is a movie you just have to watch. I streamed it last night and chuckled right along with the antics of Professor Fate.
While the good Professor Fate may have lost the race, Jack Lemmon stole the show. Stop being so serious and watch it, have a laugh or three and just enjoy a good comedy. If you are lucky like me, you have already seen this fine flick and can go back and laugh again. Worthy of five shamrocks.