When I was just a kid, my brother I used to sit down every weekend and watch The Family Film Festival with Tom Hatten on Channel 5. I think it was on Sunday mornings. On that show, about four or five times each year, they would play Popeye cartoons and old movies that the channel had secured the rights to very cheaply. You could tell they got the rights cheap because they’d play the same movies over and over. One of the movies they showed over and over, about four or five times each year, was The Great Race.
The Great Race is a Blake Edwards comedy from 1965, starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood and so many others. It was one of those movies I saw so much that I could, and often did – to death, quote line by line.
I didn’t realize the profound affect it had on me until I watched it recently. I had dvr’ed the film off TCM (which I just LUV), having only seen it uncut once before many years ago. As I watched it, I realized that so many of the rapid-fire interchanges could have come out of something I wrote. Among the many influences I’ve had, this one is very clear.
And the movie still holds up today. So many things I loved as a child simply do not but The Great Race still had me laughing. Jack Lemmon’s energy is contagious. Tony Curtis’ meta-suavity is spot on. Natalie Wood is – well, this was when she looked amazing (when didn’t she?) – but her timing is wicked. Peter Falk is Peter Falk so you know he’s got it in spades. And there are so many others that just nail it.
The bad part? The music. As I’ve mentioned to others, this simply stops the show because it’s so god-awful. You end up in a pit stop, waiting for the music to end so you can get on with the enjoyment. I'm not talking about the soundtrack, which is wonderful; it's those damn showtunes. Stop it!
And much enjoyment is to be had. The thing about The Great Race is that it has so many moments of fucking brilliance that it can coast for a while and you don’t mind. Well, I didn’t. I just love this movie and feel so grateful knowing how it has inspired me.