Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Must-See Movie: The Great Race

The Great Race (1965)
The greatest Blake Edwards' film of all time, this movie is packed with stars and the best moments in cinematic history. Sparkly-eyed, immaculate, and white-toothed daredevil, The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) convinces turn-of-the-century auto makers to hold a race from New York to Paris. Leslie's nemesis, the mustached and shifty-eyed Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) vows to beat Leslie to the finish line in a wacky car of his own, along with his dim-witted sidekick (Peter Falk). Along the way they meet a voluptuous suffragette (Natalie Wood), are engaged in a huge old-fashioned Western bar fight, fall into a Man in the Iron Mask-type plot, and have a hand in the largest pie fight ever staged on film.

Infused with typical 60's sexual innuendo, Tony Curtis plays the straight man as he woos Natalie Wood cross-country with his cheeky debonair winks (accentuated by the perfect "ping!" sound effects). He fences like Errol Flynn, competes like a gentleman, and stays pristinely white throughout the journey.

The classic status of this movie, however, is due largely to the slapstick -- very reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy. The chemistry between Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk as bumbling baddies is the paradigm of comedy from the time period in which it's framed. Professor Fate is your archetypal early 20th century villian, twirling his black curly mustache. Then he goes from gravelly sneering villian to giggly, child-like royalty with a dual role as the Prince of Pottsdorf. Fate's assistant Max is the superlative performance of Falk. His talent to use his shortcomings is exemplified, as his squinty-eyed face hunchily searches for Fate with that trademark "Pro-fess-ah!!"

Supported by Keenan Wynn, Vivian Vance, Larry Storch, Dorothy Provine, and a plethora of other fabulous character actors, the movie is unlike anything you've seen in Hollywood to date.

1 comment:

pixie said...

One of my faves -- thanks for the rave!