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Tender romantic comedy about an aspiring musician who arrives in New York in search of fame & fortune. He soon meets a taxi dancer, moves in with her, and before too long a romance develops. Written by
In watching The Rat Race today, I was struck by the fact that this film did not lead to any more parts like the one she played here for Debbie Reynolds. She was quite a revelation as the girl who's been around the block a few times and just struggling to stay alive in that meat grinder called New York.
By the time The Rat Race came out, Tony Curtis was already being taken quite seriously as an actor with The Sweet Smell Of Success and The Defiant Ones behind him. But Reynolds was America's sweetheart, still basking in the sympathy of the American public when Elizabeth Taylor stole husband Eddie Fisher. She played good girl roles almost exclusively, but here she takes on a part that you would have more readily cast Elizabeth Taylor.
Curtis is from the Midwest and an aspiring jazz musician who comes to New York, but gets quickly victimized by a cruel city. Reynolds is a woman who is an aspiring model who does what she has to in order to survive. But that's coming to an end as landlady Kay Medford wants her money and thug Don Rickles who she's into wants something else and quick.
The two of them decide to move in together without benefit of clergy, something that was still quite daring with the Code firmly in place. It's strictly economic at first, but you know these two people living one step from the gutter would fall for each other.
The film was based on a play that Garson Kanin wrote and ran 84 performances in the 1949-50 season on Broadway. It starred Betty Field and Barry Nelson on stage and repeating his role from the original cast as a musician con man is jazz great Joe Bushkin.
Besides Reynolds the performance to really watch out for is Don Rickles as murderous hood Nellie. For those of you who think of Rickles as insult comedian to the stars, his performance will knock your socks off. He far more than Debbie was the real surprise here. Jack Oakie has one of his last roles as a philosophical bartender, serving drinks in the downstairs of Kay Medford's boarding house.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Debbie Reynolds might have taken this part to prove she had every bit the acting chops Elizabeth Taylor did. She certainly proved it to me and The Rat Race ranks as one of the best performances by either of the two stars.
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