The Great Race(1965)

Directed by:Blake Edwards

The Plot

Its the turn of the 19th century and Leslie 'The Great Leslie' Gallant convinces auto-mobile makers that a race is needed to raise the sales of automobile. The race would start in New York and eventually end up in Paris, while going through places such as the Bering Straight and Russia.

Although the Great Leslie thinks he has the race in the bag, he does not count on Professor Fate and his sidekick Maximillian 'Max' Meen and their super gadget invested car.

It is not just the ingenious dastdardly Professer Fate that the Great Leslie has to look out for as well, but also a beautiful young lady who goes by the name of Maggie DuBois, enters the competition but ends up traveling with the Great Leslie. Other contestants such as Texas Jack and Baron Rolfe von Stuppe all add to the pressure for the Great Leslie to win.

And so the race starts taking them through snow entrenched roads and dangerous cliff side roads. Who will win...


I have only really ever seen this film in its entirety once, other times i have caught the ending or some of the middle parts, and therefore sometimes it was a little confusing (as is all films if you start to watch them half way through). I think the most important part about this film is how funny it is, there are some comic moments which had me in tears.

My 2 favioute characters are Professer Fate and Max Meen, these two are just born to suffer and everything that can go wrong does go wrong, both these Characters wonderfully played by Jack Lemon (Fate) and Peter Falk (Max) who come together to create a wonderful comedy duo.

Famous Quote

Press the button Max!!!

-Professor Fate

Pity poor Professor Fate.

He is a daredevil. The greatest daredevil of them all, blessed with unmatched inventiveness, tremendous bravery, and sheer chutzpa. His stunts have wowed crowd from all over, to watch him stand tall in basic black and gape at his neatly waxed handlebar mustache. The twentieth century has just begun, and the world should be his oyster. With his loyal subordinate Max Meen, he ought to stand alone atop the entire world, the daredevil all others should seek to copy, adored by a worshipful and deferential public.

And he would be. Except.

Except for one man. Clad only in white, his teeth sparkle when he smiles. Literally. Everything seems to come easy to him: fame, fortune, popularity, ladies. He seems perfect, too perfect to be true. Proper women swoon over him like cheap trollops! Often they pass out from his gaze -- though that is probably more from their over-tightened corsets than anything that . . . . .Leslie . . . . could actually perform.

The Great Leslie. The name itself leaves a bitter taste on Fate's tongue. Everything everyone wants to be. Acclaimed the greatest daredevil ever, by everyone. When that title should rightfully belong to the one, the only, Professor Fate.

Ah, but the Sentinel has announced that it is sponsoring a race, a long race from New York to Paris. They wish to promote the automobile, a tasty new technology Fate has already mastered. Professor Fate knows he can build a car superior to all others. That he will win, and for once stand alone, the Greatest Daredevil in All the World.

And if this Leslie gets in his way. Well . . . . .

Director Blake Edwards’ (10, The Pink Panther)’s The Great Race is a screwball comedy loosely based upon a real 1908 auto race from New York to Paris, won by the Thomas Flyer. The turn of the century was a heady time of auto racing, daredevil flyers such as the great Lincoln Beachey and unrivaled optimism about a bright new future.

Arthur O’Connell plays the henpecked publisher Hector Goodbody, who believes in the future and the automobile. Despite his suffragette wife. His paper will sponsor a race from New York to Paris. Naturally all the world’s daredevils want to win, particularly the Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) and the dark, brooding and downright mean Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon).

The opening section is brilliant, establishing the rivalry between Professor Fate and the Great Leslie with wonderful slapstick aplomb. Professor Fate is a genius, but then Wile E. Coyote was a super genius, and if they should meet many beers could be drank while they commiserated together.

It also establishes the primary love interest, reporter Maggie DuBois, played with energetic perkiness by the lovely Natalie Wood. Maggie is a suffragette, an independent competent, determined woman in an era where barefoot and pregnant was the only career for a woman. She wants to make her mark on journalism, and she’s determined to cover the race, from the inside. As a competitor.

There are highjinks galore, with polar bears and jealous cowboys. The racers even blunder into a coup d’etat where Baron von Stupe (Ross Martin) plans to use the Professor to overthrow kind and wine-loving Prince Hapnik. There are bar fights, sword fights, and the greatest pie fight in all filmdom, plus more adventures before the film ends up underneath the Eiffel Tower.

I really enjoyed the film. The first part is side splitting and though the later parts are not quite up to that level of brilliance, you'll keep laughing. The film pays honest homage to early film comedies. Peter Falk won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor playing Professor Fate’s loyal henchman Max Meen, and it was well deserved. Both thumbs up, and readily available on video.

Music is by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini

Screenplay by Arthur Ross

Producer: Henry Jurow

Editor: Ralph. E. Winters

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