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Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Great Race (1965)

At the turn of the century, a popular daredevil (Tony Curtis) is the odds on favorite to win a New York to Paris automobile race. But not if his competing evil nemesis (Jack Lemmon) has anything to say about it. Along for the ride is a suffragette (Natalie Wood), who is the first female reporter for a New York newspaper. Normally, Blake Edwards has a light and airy deft hand at comedy in such films as BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and THE PINK PANTHER but he bites off more than he can chew here. Instead of his customary elegance and wit, Edwards tries too hard borrowing slapstick gags from the great silent comedians and films and expanding on them. So instead of a couple of pies in the face gags, Edwards gives us the biggest pie fight of all time. A pie in the face is funny the first or second time but around the time of the 100th pie in the face, the gag has long since worn out its welcome. Frank Tashlin, he's not! Lemmon is quite wonderful here, taking delight in his incompetent villain but poor Wood seems out of her element. She doesn't have the necessary acting style for a comedy like this and her performance is awkward. She looks terrific in her Edith Head costumes though. Still, with everything and the kitchen sink thrown in, the film is bound to hit its target a few times. The same year as this effort, Ken Annakin covered similar territory with THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES much more successfully. The score is by Henry Mancini. With Peter Falk, Dorothy Provine (who has a killer number, He Shouldn't A Hadn't A Oughtn't A Swung On Me), Keenan Wynn, Arthur O'Connell, Vivian Vance, Ross Martin, George Macready and Larry Storch.

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