THE GREAT RACE--A PETER FALK JOINT
The above picture is from a movie I directed a couple of years ago called "The Thing About My Folks." As you can tell, it stars Peter Falk and Paul Reiser (who also wrote the script) as a father and a son who bond on an improptu roadtrip. It's on HBO a lot these days. There. End of plug.
I mention it because my oldest friend, "Lawyer Fred", recently reminded me that one of the early highlights of our "movies on TV" educations was watching "The Great Race." Directed by Blake Edwards, and starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood and Peter Falk among others, "The Great Race" was one of several movies that played on network prime-time television as big-event airings in the early 1970's. The others I recall were "Dr. Doolittle", "Born Free", and "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World." Like the "Mad/World," "The Great Race" was conceived as a sort of high-budget homage to rollicking, old-fashioned comedy. Unlike "Mad/World," it's a period piece and filled with lovely gadgets, cars, planes, costumes and a monumental pie-fight. (I can't imagine that sequence is really all that funny anymore--or if it ever really was? Pie fights are to humor as military marches are to music. They just don't really provoke the responses that they once did...)
"The Great Race" was our favorite of these movies, so much so that we used to play it as a game. That is, we'd be different characters and race around the yard playing "The Great Race." Weirdly, the character I always played was Max Meen--the role inhabited by Peter Falk.
When I got the job directing "Folks" I remembered this and found the irony of directing the man who I used to imitate as a child too delicious not to mention. But--not mention it I did. (Or: mention it I did not.) Peter Falk is many things. But he is not a guy--at least when he's working--who would be interested in such a story. This isn't a criticism. His focus is so intense, his devotion to the task at hand so unwavering, that small talk isn't really his thing. I respected that. So for the twenty-five days we worked together, I never told him of my former role--playing Peter Falk playing Max Meen. Perhaps next time...
Why isn't "The Great Race" ever on TV? I can't imagine. It would seem ripe for a letter-boxed TCM Sunday afternoon slot. Or have I simply missed it? And I wonder how good the DVD is--commentary and extras-galored or basics? If anyone would like to buy me something for Christmas, may I suggest the DVD of "The Great Race"?
Below is Professor Fate's Airplane Stunt.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 4:19 PM