1900s, 1960's, american west, arthur o'connell, austria, blake edwards, cars, cartoon, classic, classic comedy, classic Hollywood, Comedy, cult classic, dick dastardly, dorothy provine, edith head, feature, feature film, feature presentation, film, film review, henry mancini, hezekiah, intermission, jack lemmon, Keenan Wynn, larry storch, laurel and hardy, looney tunes, maggie dubois, max, movie, movie review, natalie wood, New York, obscure movie, Paris, peter falk, pie fight, prince hapnik, prisoner of zenda, professor fate, race, racing, racing game, review, roadshow, silent comedy, silent movie, silent movies, slapstick, slapstick comedy, the great leslie, the great pie fight, the great race, the prisoner of zenda, the sweetheart tree, tony curtis, travel, traveling, vivian vance, wacky races, Warner Bros., Warner Brothers, west
“Push the button, Max!”
– Professor Fate, usually before a catastrophe of his doing strikes
To say things have gotten tumultuous since the last review would be a gross understatement. But we’re not here to discuss today’s upheavals, important as they are. Let’s just take a moment to reflect and laugh. Lord knows we could use a good one right now.
Directed by esteemed comedy director and Hollywood bad boy Blake Edwards, The Great Race is a loving pastiche and send-up of silent comedies and melodramas from the early days of cinema (classic Laurel and Hardy in particular; the film even opens with a dedication to them). Thankfully the movie itself is not silent. What kind of genius madman would try to make a silent comedy in the late twentieth century?
Believe it or not, The Great Race was inspired by a real automobile race from New York to Paris that took place in 1908. Some of the more outlandish elements of the race like floating on icebergs across the sea were even based on genuine ideas that were proposed for the race but wisely ruled out. Despite its star power and a huge budget, The Great Race was a flop on release and quickly fell into obscurity. Critics assumed it was trying to ride off the popularity of Those Magnificent Men And Their Flying Machines, another big-budget all-star comedy with a similar premise. I’m more inclined to believe that its failure was due to the roadshow phenomenon that boomed in the late ’50s dying out at this point. It would be several more years until the epic format of a three-hour film with an overture and intermission faded from theaters completely, but audiences were already losing interest, and that rung The Great Race’s knell. Regardless, it’s garnered something of a cult fanbase from automobile aficionados (the original cars are still displayed at conventions), fans of classic cinematic comedies, and it even inspired the wildly popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky Races.
So if it wasn’t for this –
– we wouldn’t have this.