The Great Race (1965)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB

USA, 1965.  Warner Bros., Patricia, Jalem Productions, Reynard.  Original story by Blake Edwards, , Screenplay by Arthur A. Ross.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Blake Edwards hits the big time with this bloated epic comedy, in which he combines his madcap style with an international setting, top-flight cast and all the set pieces that money can buy. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play rival daredevils who are in a constant war of one-upmanship that sees them sabotaging each other’s spectacles.  When Curtis convinces an automobile company to put itself at the head of its industry by sponsoring him in a race from New York to Paris, Lemmon joins the fray with his own sneaky contraption, assisted by his even sneakier assistant (Peter Falk). Natalie Wood co-stars in a period version of her Sex And The Single Girl character as a reporter who wants to cover the race and earn her place in journalism history but, when ignored by the competitors, decides to enter her own vehicle instead.  These characters hit the Wild West, Alaska and even enjoy a trip across the ocean in an ice floe, but between Lemmon’s desperately hammy performance (you’ve never seen him more anxious to be funny), Curtis relying so lazily on his looks, Wood’s confusion of being a movie star forced to play the token female in a disaster that engulfs her, and Edwards basically focusing on action sequences and bringing no life to the rest of it, it’s an outright mess.  Throw in a random musical number and an extraneous romance (coupled with a healthy dose of sexism: Wood’s insistence on making her mark as a female journalist is always treated as a joke) and what you have is a bewildering mess that is nearly impossible to sit through, an attempt to recreate the magic of Around The World In 80 Days (such as it was) with more emphasis on food fights than exotic scenery.  I’d rather sit through Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, that’s how awful this is.

Academy Award:  Best Sound Effects
Nominations: Best Cinematography-Colour; Best Film Editing; Best Sound; Best Song (“The Sweetheart Tree”)

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Jack Lemmon); Best Original Score; Best Song (“The Sweetheart Tree”)

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