Over the course of his career Blake Edwards became known for two things; being married to Julie Andrews, and directing a string of comedic films that were destined to become classics. You might not know it but Edwards was responsible for movies as diverse as they were great, from Breakfast at Tiffanys, to the Bo Derek star-making 10. In 1965 he turned his attention to an ensemble comedy about an unflappable hero, a mustache-twirling evil villain, a beautiful suffragette, and an around the world race.
The Great Race holds up today for its slapstick comedy. That pie scene? Those are real pies. Jack Lemon takes on multiple roles, and it’s his Professor Fate that steals the show. Tony Curtis, playing the Great Leslie, and serving as Fate’s arch and unrequited nemesis, has the somewhat thankless role of having to do nothing more than be handsome and perfect. Nonetheless he pulls it off. Natalie Wood’s character is a woman attempting to overcome the gender bias of the time – the film is loosely based on an actual 1908 New York to Paris race – but the film makers still manage to get her in nothing more than her undergarments as often as possible.
The cars are the stars too in The Great Race. Both Professor Fate’s Hannibal Eight and the Leslie Special are presently displayed at the Peterson. The 6-wheel Hannibal Eight was powered by a Corvair engine and there were actually six of them built for the film to allow for a number of destructive stunts. The Leslie Special was built from the parts bin, but it was an authentic and quite handsome car. If you’ve never seen The Great Race then check out the trailer after the jump and see what you’ve been missing.
The Great Race isn’t available for free streaming anywhere legal, but it’s pretty darn cheap to either rent or buy from Amazon, and just a little more from some of the other usual suspects.