The Great Race (1965)

157 mins | Comedy | 1 July 1965

Director:

Blake Edwards

Producer:

Martin Jurow

Cinematographer:

Russell Harlan

Production Designer:

Fernando Carrère

Production Companies:

Patricia, Jalem Productions, Inc., Reynard Co.
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HISTORY

According to a 14 Jul 1965 Var article detailing the experience of screenwriter Arthur Ross, filmmaker Blake Edwards initially conceived an idea for a motion picture based on the 1908 transcontinental automobile race from New York City to Paris, France. In early 1960, Edwards contacted Ross, who agreed to develop the story for eight weeks without pay before presenting illustrated plot points to United Artists (UA). Ross was “formally hired” on 28 Jul 1960, at which point he wrote a 300-page version of the script that was later pared down to 175-180 pages in the next two drafts. Although negotiations with UA fell through, Jack Lemmon told the 3 May 1961 Var the following spring that he planned to co-produce the project through his own banner, Jalem Productions, Inc.
       Early the next year, a 12 Jan 1962 DV article announced the joining of Edwards’s Homeward Productions and Freddie Fields Associates (owned jointly by Fields, David Begelman, and John Foreman), to form Project III. For their first film endeavor, Project III would produce The Great Race in a one-picture deal with the Mirisch Company. While previous items suggested that Lemmon had always been attached to star, DV claimed Danny Kaye was also considered for his role as “Professor Fate.” At this time, Paul Newman had been approached to play “The Great Leslie,” while Fields had begun “talks” with Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, and Natalie Wood for the female lead, “Maggie DuBois.” Items later that year seemed to confirm Newman’s involvement, and a 12 Feb 1963 LAT news report stated that both he and Lemmon had agreed to accept ... More Less

According to a 14 Jul 1965 Var article detailing the experience of screenwriter Arthur Ross, filmmaker Blake Edwards initially conceived an idea for a motion picture based on the 1908 transcontinental automobile race from New York City to Paris, France. In early 1960, Edwards contacted Ross, who agreed to develop the story for eight weeks without pay before presenting illustrated plot points to United Artists (UA). Ross was “formally hired” on 28 Jul 1960, at which point he wrote a 300-page version of the script that was later pared down to 175-180 pages in the next two drafts. Although negotiations with UA fell through, Jack Lemmon told the 3 May 1961 Var the following spring that he planned to co-produce the project through his own banner, Jalem Productions, Inc.
       Early the next year, a 12 Jan 1962 DV article announced the joining of Edwards’s Homeward Productions and Freddie Fields Associates (owned jointly by Fields, David Begelman, and John Foreman), to form Project III. For their first film endeavor, Project III would produce The Great Race in a one-picture deal with the Mirisch Company. While previous items suggested that Lemmon had always been attached to star, DV claimed Danny Kaye was also considered for his role as “Professor Fate.” At this time, Paul Newman had been approached to play “The Great Leslie,” while Fields had begun “talks” with Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, and Natalie Wood for the female lead, “Maggie DuBois.” Items later that year seemed to confirm Newman’s involvement, and a 12 Feb 1963 LAT news report stated that both he and Lemmon had agreed to accept less than half their usual paychecks to appear in the picture. However, a 9 Apr 1963 DV brief revealed that Newman left the project due to scheduling conflicts. An 8 Feb 1963 LAT story reported that Edwards also reached out to Lee Remick, whom he directed with Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses (1962, see entry), while the 26 Feb 1963 LAT named Mickey Rooney in the role of Lemmon’s onscreen sidekick, “Max.”
       Meanwhile, the 14 Sep 1962 DV reported that Maurice Richlin had been recruited to polish the script, and the 17 Jan 1963 DV announced the assignment of production executive J. J. Cohn, who had since moved from his position at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) to join the Mirisch Co. Amid fluctuating budget reports, the project transitioned from the Mirisch Co. to Warner Bros. Pictures in the summer of 1963. On 8 Jul 1963, LAT stated that Burt Lancaster had stepped in as Newman’s replacement, but the role was eventually assumed by Tony Curtis, marking his first onscreen reunion with Lemmon since Some Like It Hot (1959, see entry). The search continued for a female co-star, with items in the 13 Feb 1964 LAT, 9 Mar 1964 LAT, and 20 Mar 1964 DV naming Jane Fonda, Pamela Tiffin, and Stefanie Powers among those considered before Natalie Wood agreed to appear. Edwards told the 12 Aug 1964 LAT that Debbie Reynolds had briefly been attached, but did not want to be separated from her children during the lengthy overseas shoot. Shortly after, Peter Falk accepted the role of “Max.” According to the 10 Jan 1965 LAT, supporting cast member Ross Martin had served as entertainment director of Camp Graylock in Massachusetts, where Falk attended summer camp as a child. A 7 Nov 1963 DV brief suggested that Charlton Heston was also asked to co-star, but declined in order to fulfill prior commitments.
       Additional DV and LAT casting items throughout production also noted the appearances of the following, whose participation could not be confirmed or may have been uncredited: Patricia King, Joyce Nizzari, Hanna Landy, Foster Brooks, Art Stewart, Bill Crump, Sid Kane, and the New Christy Minstrels.
       According to the 22 Jun 1964 DV, principal photography began that day at the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, CA, with a projected 100-day shooting schedule and a budget expected to exceed $6 million. Four days later, DV reported that Paul Helmick led a second unit team that had been dispatched to shoot aerial and exterior footage of a home in San Marino, CA. Helmick stayed on throughout production, as a 22 Jul 1964 Var brief claimed he and choreographer Hermes Pan served as additional directors when Edwards temporarily split the production into three units. A 17 Jul 1964 LAT item stated that filmmakers put out the “largest Warner studio call in 10 years” to accumulate more than 1,000 background actors to portray the cheering crowds. An earlier report in the 7 May 1964 edition indicated that the studio art department constructed full-size automobiles and props, including two racecars, boats, a torpedo, a “rockomotor,” and a “dirigicycle.” In addition, a balloon was brought in from Sioux Falls, SD.
       On 24 Jul 1964, DV announced that plans to film in the Pacific coastal city of Gearhart, OR, had been scrapped due to rain, and the unit moved abroad to complete work in Paris, and Vienna and Salzburg, Austria. According to the 3 Sep 1964 DV, locations included Anif Palace, which sits in the middle of a large artificial pond south of Salzburg. In an article for the 14 Oct 1964 Var, Curtis criticized Viennese authorities after a misunderstanding that forced the unit to substitute Hofberg Imperial Palace for the anticipated location at Schönbrunn Palace. A 23 Sep 1964 Var brief stated that the Vienna Boys’ Choir and twenty-four members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra participated in the film.
       After six weeks in Europe, the 30 Sep 1964 Var announced that the production had recently returned to California and resumed filming at the Warner Bros. studios. However, a conflicting item in the 19 Aug 1964 DV suggested that the actors were already back, and shooting scenes on an “Alaskan tundra” set on Stage 4. The sequence reportedly required eighteen tons of artificial snow, and the 25 Oct 1964 LAT detailed the participation of a brother-sister team of polar bears named “Mike” and “Minnie.” Before production began, Curtis told the 24 Feb 1964 LAT that Edwards also planned to send a second unit crew to film exteriors in Alaska, although this could not be confirmed. According to the 11 Nov 1964 Var, location filming also took place in Frankfort, KY; the Monument Valley region along the Utah-Arizona border; and Sonora and Pismo Beach, CA.
       A feature in the 9 Jul 1965 issue of Life magazine described the process of shooting the climactic, four-minute pie fight, which lasted a total of five days and required approximately 4,000 real cream pies with brightly colored fillings. Makeup artists took color photographs of the actors at the end of each workday so that the mess could be recreated once filming resumed. When the unit departed for the weekend, they returned on Monday to discover that cream covering the walls and floors had spoiled, causing a delay while the set was aired out. An 8 Apr 1965 Los Angeles Sentinel item reported that filmmakers tried three times before perfecting the “bake” of a 1,500-pound cake used for a stunt involving Jack Lemmon in his second role as the “Crown Prince Hapnick.”
       Production ran grossly over schedule, which the 4 Dec 1964 DV attributed to poor weather at nearly all the locations. Although Edwards hoped to wrap principal photography around Christmas 1964, filming continued through the holidays, with the 23 Dec 1964 DV estimating completion around 1 Jan 1967. Costs ballooned to roughly $12 million due to the repeated delays and Edwards’s continual requests to studio president Jack Warner for more money. On 20 Jan 1965, DV announced that Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk had been called back to Warner Bros. for more shooting. However, the 26 Feb 1965 edition reported last-minute plans for an added party scene were canceled when Lemmon fell ill with hepatitis and Curtis was required to leave for Europe to shoot Boeing Boeing (1965, see entry). Although Hedda Hopper claimed in her 23 Jan 1965 LAT column that Edwards would take ten months to complete post-production, The Great Race was prepared in time for a summer 1965 release.
       A 15 Nov 1964 NYT article revealed that two sets of credits of The Great Race would be printed to give both Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon first billing. Advertisements also ran different versions of all publicity materials alternating the order of their names.
       With considerable finances already invested in the film, Warner Bros. rolled out an extensive promotional campaign, most notably a free exhibit and studio tour that provided public access to the Warner Bros. lot for the first time ever. According to an 8 May 1965 LAT article, the display showcased the custom racing vehicles featured onscreen, 200 still photographs taken by Bob Willoughby throughout filming, and a Technicolor teaser trailer titled “Behind the Scenes of The Great Race.” Because admission was free of charge, all concession fees were donated to the Variety Club of Southern California and the Motion Picture Relief Fund. On 4 Aug 1964, LAT announced the closure of the exhibit, which recorded more than 160,000 visitors over three months. The 10 Mar 1965 Var also detailed plans for an invitational press junket to be held 24-25 Jun 1965 for 350 foreign and domestic reporters.
       A 30 Jun 1965 LAT news story announced that the official world premiere was scheduled to take place the following evening at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre, with proceeds benefitting the Crippled Children’s Guild of Orthopaedic Hospital. The event kicked off an exclusive “hardticket” engagement at the venue, which hosted two screenings per day. After five weeks of “satisfactory” earnings, the 4 Aug 1965 Var reported that the picture would shift to a general run, allowing for twenty-two shows per week. A studio spokesman credited the change as an effort to accommodate families who objected to the more expensive, reserved-seat policy. Although filmed in 35mm, the 8 Jul 1964 DV claimed that the picture was to be blown up to 70mm for certain engagements, and would include an intermission. The New York City run began 16 Sep 1965 at Radio City Music Hall. While the official copyright record lists a duration of 180 minutes, the 29 Jun 1965 DV and 17 Sep 1965 NYT reviews reported varying running times of 157 and 150 minutes (not including intermission).
       The Great Race received an Academy Award for Sound Effects, and was nominated for Cinematography (Color), Film Editing, Sound, and Music (Song)— “The Sweetheart Tree.” The picture was also the official U.S. entry in the fourth annual Moscow Film Festival, held 5—20 Jul 1965, where it received the Silver Medal.
       Although not corroborated by contemporary sources, modern documents, such as Barry Monush’s 2009 book, Everybody’s Talkin’: The Top Films of 1965-1969, credited Jackie Ward for dubbing Natalie Wood’s onscreen vocal performance of “The Sweetheart Tree.”
       According to an 11 Aug 1965 Var review of Laurel & Hardy’s Laughing 20’s, The Great Race carries a dedication to the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, who inspired Edwards’s slapstick style and the pie-throwing sequence, which was an homage to their 1927 silent short, The Battle of the Century. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Sep 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1962
p. 1, 18.
Daily Variety
14 Sep 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
8 Jul 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Jul 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
24 Jul 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1964.
---
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1964
p. 15.
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1964
p. 13.
Daily Variety
9 Dec 1964
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1964
p. 11.
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Feb 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1965
p. 3.
Life
9 Jul 1965
pp. 85-88.
Los Angeles Sentinel
8 Apr 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
13 Jun 1962
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
6 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
8 Feb 1963
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
12 Feb 1963
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1963
p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jul 1963
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1964
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
24 Feb 1964
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
9 Mar 1964
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
2 Apr 1964
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
6 Apr 1964
Section D, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
20 Apr 1964
Section C, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
7 May 1964
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1964
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
12 Aug 1964
Section D, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
21 Oct 1964
Section D, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 1964
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1964
Section D, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 1964
Section C, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
10 Jan 1965
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jan 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
20 Jan 1965
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jan 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
8 May 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jun 1965
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
1 Jul 1965
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jul 1965
Section D, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jul 1965
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jul 1965
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1965
Section C, p. 9.
New York Times
15 Nov 1964
Section X, p. 11.
New York Times
29 Jun 1965
p. 27.
New York Times
15 Sep 1965
p. 39.
New York Times
17 Sep 1965.
---
Variety
3 May 1961
p. 3.
Variety
17 Jan 1962
p. 3.
Variety
22 Jul 1964
p. 5.
Variety
31 Jul 1964.
---
Variety
23 Sep 1964
p. 24.
Variety
30 Sep 1964.
---
Variety
14 Oct 1964
p. 4.
Variety
11 Nov 1964
p. 18.
Variety
10 Mar 1965
p. 24.
Variety
14 Jul 1965
p. 3, 15.
Variety
4 Aug 1965
p. 24.
Variety
11 Aug 1965
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Dec cons
Dec cons
COSTUMES
Cost des
Miss Wood's clothes
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstyles for Miss Wood created by
Supv hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Dial supv
Main titles
SOURCES
SONGS
"He Shouldn't-a Hadn't-a Oughtn't-a Swang on Me," words and music by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, sung by Dorothy Provine
"The Sweetheart Tree," words and music by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, sung by Natalie Wood.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1 July 1965
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere and opening: 1 July 1965
New York opening: 16 September 1965
Production Date:
22 June--late December 1964 or early January 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Patricia--Jalem--Reynard Co.
Copyright Date:
15 June 1965
Copyright Number:
LP32421
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
157
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1908 in New York City, the villainous Professor Fate challenges The Great Leslie to a New York-to-Paris automobile race. Fate and his assistant Max enter their black Hannibal 8 against the white Leslie Special. At the starting line, Fate sets boobytraps for the other competitors and destroys their cars, except for Leslie's and the Stanley Steamer of Maggie DuBois, a feminist reporter for a New York newspaper. Her car breaks down, and she (with pigeons that send dispatches to New York) is picked up by Leslie and leads him to some gasoline that Professor Fate overlooked when he destroyed the supplies. They meet again in Alaska as both cars come to rest on an ice floe. They drift across the Bering Strait to Siberia; Fate then kidnaps Maggie; and both parties make their way to the Baltic republic of Carpania, ruled by Prince Hapnick (who looks exactly like Fate). Evil Baron von Stuppe uses Fate's likeness to begin a revolution. Fate escapes, however, and the race continues into France. Maggie has again joined Leslie, who proves his love for her when he stops his car a few feet from the finish line to kiss her. Fate, some distance behind, catches up with Leslie and is the first to cross the finish line; but he realizes that Leslie was the real winner. The three turn around and head back to New ... +


In 1908 in New York City, the villainous Professor Fate challenges The Great Leslie to a New York-to-Paris automobile race. Fate and his assistant Max enter their black Hannibal 8 against the white Leslie Special. At the starting line, Fate sets boobytraps for the other competitors and destroys their cars, except for Leslie's and the Stanley Steamer of Maggie DuBois, a feminist reporter for a New York newspaper. Her car breaks down, and she (with pigeons that send dispatches to New York) is picked up by Leslie and leads him to some gasoline that Professor Fate overlooked when he destroyed the supplies. They meet again in Alaska as both cars come to rest on an ice floe. They drift across the Bering Strait to Siberia; Fate then kidnaps Maggie; and both parties make their way to the Baltic republic of Carpania, ruled by Prince Hapnick (who looks exactly like Fate). Evil Baron von Stuppe uses Fate's likeness to begin a revolution. Fate escapes, however, and the race continues into France. Maggie has again joined Leslie, who proves his love for her when he stops his car a few feet from the finish line to kiss her. Fate, some distance behind, catches up with Leslie and is the first to cross the finish line; but he realizes that Leslie was the real winner. The three turn around and head back to New York. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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