The Great Race (1965)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Tony Curtis stars as The Great Leslie, a hero among heroes whose purity of heart is manifested by his spotlessly white wardrobe. Leslie's great rival, played by Jack Lemmon, is Professor Fate, a scowling, mustachioed, top-hatted, black-garbed villain. Long envious of Leslie's record-setting accomplishments with airships and sea craft, Professor Fate schemes to win a 22,000-mile auto race from New York City to Paris by whatever insidious means possible. The problem is that Fate is his own worst enemy: each of his plans to remove Leslie from the running (and from the face of the earth) backfires. Leslie's own cross to bear is suffragette Maggie Dubois (Natalie Wood), who also hopes to win the contest and thus strike a blow for feminism. The race takes all three contestants to the Wild West, the frozen wastes of Alaska, and, in the longest sequence, the mythical European kingdom of Carpania. This last-named country is the setting for a wild Prisoner of Zenda spoof involving Professor Fate and his look-alike, the foppish Carpanian king. When Leslie and Fate approach the finish line at the Eiffel Tower, Leslie deliberately loses to prove his love for Maggie. Professor Fate cannot stand winning under these circumstances, thus he demands that he and Leslie race back to New York. The supporting cast includes Peter Falk as Fate's long-suffering flunkey Max, Keenan Wynn as Leslie's faithful general factotum, Dorothy Provine as a brassy saloon singer, Larry Storch as ill-tempered bandit Texas Jack, and Ross Martin as Baron Von Stuppe. The film also yielded a hit song, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer's The Sweetheart Tree. The Great Race was dedicated to "Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy".
Action & Adventure , Classics , Comedy , Kids & Family , Romance
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In Theaters:
Warner Home Video

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Tony Curtis
as The Great Leslie
Jack Lemmon
as Prof. Fate
Natalie Wood
as Maggie DuBois
Arthur O'Connell
as Henry Goodbody
Keenan Wynn
as Hezekiah
Vivian Vance
as Hester Goodbody
Dorothy Provine
as Lily Olay
Larry Storch
as Texas Jack
Ross Martin
as Baron Rolfe Von Stuppe
George Macready
as Gen. Kuhster
Marvin Kaplan
as Frisbee
Hal Smith
as Mayor of Boracho
Denver Pyle
as Sheriff
William Bryant
as Baron's Guard
Ken Wales
as Baron's Guard
Maria Schroeder
as Woman in Tobelsk
Patricia King
as Woman in Western Scene
Joyce Nizzari
as Woman in Western Scene
Greg Benedict
as Soldier
Chuck Hayward
as Soldier
Robert S. Carson
as Vice Chairman
Frank Kreig
as Starter
Charles Steel
as Freight Agent
Paul L. Smith
as Employee
Joe Palma
as Conductor
Paul Bryar
as Policeman
Chester Hayes
as Man in Bear Suit
John Truax
as Prison Guard
Hal Riddle
as Baker
Paul Smith
as Employee
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Critic Reviews for The Great Race

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (2)

Lemmon plays it dirty throughout and for huge effect. Curtis underplays for equally comic effect. Wood comes through on a par with the two male stars.

Full Review… | May 6, 2008
Top Critic

It's highly inventive, self-conscious camp, made in 1965, well before the genre wore itself out in superciliousness.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A monumentally epic disaster...

Full Review… | August 1, 2015
Reel Film Reviews

Comedy masterpiece, and one of the few films to look at votes for women.

Full Review… | January 7, 2011
Classic Film and Television

Perfect family movie is fun from beginning to end.

Full Review… | December 28, 2010
Common Sense Media

Laughs aplenty! Lemmon is hilarious!

October 25, 2008
Tsunami Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Great Race

The film does drag on somewhat slowly, it makes up for it for one lone reason and one lone reason only, JACK LEMMON AS PROFESSOR FATE!!! He is so damn funny to watch, and I think the comedy on how he acts comes from the Looney Tunes, particularly Daffy Duck, who I am inspired by quite a bit as well, and it really works with the comedy on this character, and is hysterical. The only thing I disliked about this film was Tony Curtis, mainly because how wooden he acts in this film, but I think it was intentional, I think he was trying to just act like that because he is just a stereotypical attractive dude that is just a character with no attitude or emotion., But Jack Lemmon works off of him so hysterically well, and he is someone who you just want to actually see win and not Tony Curtis.

Michael Edwards
Michael Edwards

Super Reviewer


The fun of this tribute (of sorts) to the old silent films is watching the cast simply live it up. Curtis gets to hero it, Wood gets to sexy all American girl it, and Lemmon and the recently deceased Falk get to revel as the very bad guy and his untrustworthy assistant it. Plenty of shining moments by supporting actors in what is without a doubt one deliberately silly film, yes, but fun.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

I didn't know it was a kids movie when I started, but I really, really liked it. Why? Because Jack Lemmon is a comic genius and made me crack up more than I was ever expecting. Parallel only to the ever charming Natalie Woods and the oddly suave Tony Curtis. It was a bit long, but the comedy and hijinks were so crazy that I didn't mind it! This is something that if I ever had kids, would have them watch. Loved it. And I would totally watch this again. Oh, and greatest pie fight EVER.

Jennifer D
Jennifer D

Super Reviewer

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