The Great Race – 1965 – English
Synopsis: Professional daredevil and white-suited hero, The Great Leslie, convinces turn-of-the-century auto makers that a race from New York to Paris (westward across America, the Bering Straight and Russia) will help to promote automobile sales. Leslie’s arch-rival, the mustached and black-attired Professor Fate vows to beat Leslie to the finish line in a car of Fate’s own invention.
Review: First off, Jack Lemmon is excellent in playing both the villainous Prof. Fate and later on the lookalike Prince Hapnick (what a laugh he does!). As The Great Leslie, Tony Curtis (“Yay!”) provides the amusement of constantly shining his white teeth with Edwards’ assistance of course. And then there’s Natalie Wood who as reporter Maggie Dubois is frequently trying to one-up Leslie and others on her superiority concerning women’s rights.
Of the three, Lemmon comes off best as he’s consistently funny throughout with great help from Peter Falk as inept assistant Max. Keenan Wynn as Leslie’s right-hand man Hezekiah is less so but manages okay with what he’s got.
Other fine support come from Arthur O’Connell as Maggie’s newspaper boss, Marvin Kaplan as his assistant, Vivian Vance as the wife of said boss, Hal Smith as a town mayor, Denver Pyle as the sheriff, Ross Martin as a fence/sword dueler with Leslie, Larry Storch as Texas Jack, and Dorothy Provine as singer Lily Olay. Screenwriter Arthur A. Ross provides great punchlines for the stars and Edwards constantly fills the screen with several visual touches, including the biggest pie fight ever, that bring to mind the great silent comedies of the early 20th century.
In closing, while The Great Race is a little overlong, it’s still entertaining enough from beginning to end and should provide enough enjoyment for the whole family. Oh, and how touching to print at the movie’s beginning “For Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy”…