Wednesday November 23, 2011
The Great Race
By OH TEIK THEAM
THE Great Race is a 1965 slapstick comedy film that is set in the early 20th century. It follows the keen competition between two intrepid showmen, The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) and Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon).
Leslie suggests to an automobile company that it should build a special car for him to drive in a 20,000-mile race from New York to Paris. Professor Fate, solicitously supported by his half-witted sidekick, Max (Peter Falk), enters the race with his own supercar to get the better of his nemesis, Leslie, who is ably assisted by his loyal mechanic, Hezekiah (Keenan Wynn).
Maggie DuBois (Natalie Wood), a brash reporter and suffragette who considers herself an archetype of the emancipated woman, tries unsuccessfully to be a passenger with Leslie and Fate, who see her as a millstone around their necks.
A veritable live wire, Maggie wangles her editor into providing her with a racing car that will answer her needs very well. Although she has her work cut out for her, she intends to stay the course and cover the race from start to finish.
The main characters get involved in a massive brawl in a small frontier town and become stranded on a sinking iceberg near Alaska. The story takes a break from the race when they reach the small European kingdom of Carpania, where they encounter a devious plot against Prince Frederick (Lemmon again), the rightful heir to the royal throne.
The professor is a dead ringer for the prince, and rebels under Baron Rolfe von Stuppe (Ross Martin) abduct Fate to install him as the king so that the baron can eventually gain control of the kingdom. The rebels also lock up Leslie and Maggie to facilitate the execution of their plans.
After a thrilling rescue and a full-scale pie fight (the biggest pie fight in the history of cinema, using 2,357 pies!), the championship title contenders make it to Paris, where Leslie declares his undying love for Maggie and the race ends with an unexpected climax.
The characters in the movie, both major and minor, are interesting and entertaining. Lemmon is hilarious as Professor Fate and Prince Frederick. Curtis and Wood also turn in strong performances, especially in the sexual tension between them.
Directed by Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther, Victor/Victoria, 10), The Great Race has enough funny moments to make it a watchable movie.
Get the better of: To defeat.
A millstone around someoneís neck: A heavy burden.
Live wire: An energetic person.
Have oneís work cut out for one: To be faced with a difficult task.
Stay the course: To persevere.
Dead ringer: A person or thing that closely resembles another.
Lock up someone: To imprison someone.
Make it to: (i) To reach a certain point or destination. (ii) To reach a goal. (I am confident that she will make it to the final of the competition.)
Turn in: (i) To produce. (ii) To go to bed. (She turned in early last night.) (iii) To surrender or deliver to the police. (The criminal turned himself in. / He turned in the purse that he found to the police.)