Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Great Race


This is a big overblown comedy like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and few would say it’s completely successful, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. I guess it had me from the first time the Great Leslie’s teeth sparkled. Tony Curtis plays him, always dressed in white, always spotless, All-American, multi-talented, everything Professor Fate hates. Jack Lemmon was usually intense in one way or another in his movies, and he really chews the scenery here, to great comic effect. He is the embodiment of the silent movie villain, evil for evil’s sake, but totally inept. I just love his performance, both as Fate and his simpleton drunk doppelganger, the Pathetic Prince of Potsdorf. But even if you don’t like the film overall, you will probably remember the pie fight, the biggest there ever was or is ever likely to be. It’s a staggering achievement on some weird level. They used real custard pies, not colored whipped cream. There were over 4,000 pies, costing $18,000. It was filmed over five days and was fun at first, but quickly grew bothersome. One of the more unusual jobs for continuity and make-up was to take pictures of everybody at the end of a day’s shooting, and then smear colored custard all over them again in the same pattern the next day. But the awful thing was that they broke for the weekend. When they came back, it had all spoiled, and the smell was too rank for them to even enter the room, much less film. It all had to be hosed out and then “dressed” again with more pies. The kicker is that after five days of hell, when Blake Edwards yelled “Cut! That’s a wrap!” on the final take, the cast and crew pelted him with hundreds of pies they had saved for that moment.