The Great Race
One of the best old fashion comedies ever made.
Written By: Andrew Lowe
Date: 22nd January, 2015
This is a film that stars some of the classic actors of a golden age of cinema that were capable of doing just about anything. The film is entertaining, albeit long though. It has a humour that everyone can enjoy, from sophisticated wit to silly slapstick humour. This could be one of the most entertaining films I have ever seen.
The plot is very simple. A car race from New York to Paris (the long way obviously!) takes place in the early twentieth century. Two daredevils and rivals, the Great Leslie and Professor Fate take part. The film basically shows all of their adventures within the race.
This I would say is one of Tony Curtis' best films, starring as the Great Leslie. His acting as the clean-cut, out and out good guy is superb, right down to the twinkle in his smile (hopefully that was added in post-production!). Jack Lemmon hams it up as Professor Fate throughout the whole film, with wonderful interaction from a pre-Columbo Peter Falk as his henchman, Max. Natalie Wood is fantastic as Maggie Dubois, a feisty suffragette, who is also absolutely gorgeous (something that I didn’t really realise until I watched the film again in my early twenties).
It is a shame that a great deal of people have never even of heard of this film. It seems to be a forgotten classic. The whole film is a very enjoyable farce. Everything is very much like a cartoon, very ironic, as the film was the inspiration for the Wacky Races. Just watch the beginning of the race, and tell me it doesn’t feel very familiar.
The film has comedy of all tastes but unlike American comedy these days, it is subtle and well done. It has a little of everything for everyone. Although the film is dedicated to Laurel & Hardy, it is not only slapstick comedy (some of which is very intelligent slapstick humour I must say). There is some very clever word play as well. Let’s just say, this film is a master class of comic timing. Something that is very lost on directors these days.
I would say although the film is very enjoyable, there are problems with length. I would say the whole ‘Prisoner of Zenda‘ subplot could have easily been cut from the film and wouldn’t have lost anymore of enjoyment. To me, that is the point where the film actually starts to drag. Everything else keeps my interest until then. Mind you that would mean the largest pie fight in film history would have to be cut, but I’ve never really been a fan of it. Although I did like the joke that no one hits Tony Curtis in it.
Overall, this is a perfect style of film that is no longer made. A comedy made of epic scale with an intelligent style, done with a lot of class and using very talented actors at the height of their skills.