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|Index||15 reviews in total|
I loved this movie about two struggling young people and the friendship and love that grows out of those struggles. You won't find any glamour in this film, but it manages to be much more beautiful than many a movie oozing pearls, silk and mahogany. All characters are interesting, likeable and well-drawn. Rickles is fantastic as an uncouth, vulgar boss, the personification of a soul destroyed. Everything is just right. As usual, it is small movies that reach the greatest heights. I once saw screenwriter Kanin and his wife Ruth Gordon on "Donahue". I'm sorry I didn't take any notes.
I was 9 years old when I first saw this movie, which was probably too
young. I think it was the "B" movie accompanying "Bells Are Ringing"
with Judy Holliday. To me (at that age), the movie was very grim, but
mesmerizing. Main characters were extremely likable. You could not help
but feel badly for Pete Hammond and Peggy Brown who were good folks but
had to deal with such adversity. Watching the movie, one could not help
but feel so badly for them (Tony Curtis' character for being trusting
and having his musical instruments stolen, and Debbie Reynold's "hard"
character (with a heart) for sacrificing to help Tony's character out
and being abused by Don Rickles' character and his henchman.
Norman Fell and Don Rickles were very effective as the "heavies". To this day, I think of Don Rickles as "Nellie" in this film. I'm a Rickles fan, but can't make myself like him (smile).
Also love the NYC scenes, and film is almost nostalgic (NYC, the way it was in 1960).
Definitely a "must see". Great actors in their environment and in a past era. I have a VHS tape, but will order a DVD as soon as I log off :-) Tim
DEBBIE REYNOLDS and TONY CURTIS are excellent as two young people in
60's-era New York City facing adversity with street smart skills
developed after abuse from thugs like DON RICKLES (a savage
performance), and other so-called big shots.
Curtis takes pity on Reynolds and invites her to share his flat--but his luck fades when his musical instrument is stolen. True love blossoms as Reynolds tries to help him with lots of obstacles thrown in their way by assorted no-gooders.
Garson Kanin directed from his play and he keeps the action moving and the stylish backgrounds show New York City scenes that would make any New Yorker nostalgic for "the way it was".
A downbeat, sometimes bitter dose of comedy/drama that has so much energy and such appealing performances from Reynolds and Curtis, that you'll be drawn into it from the start. Well worthwhile.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Why the producers decided to cast New Yorker Tony Curtis in the film, I
just can't understand. Why would they cast him of all people
considering he is supposed to be playing a guy from Milwaukee who gets
lost in the big bad city of New York? With his very strong New York
accent, it just didn't make sense. Listening to him, he sounded like he
should have been perfectly at home in the Bronx or Brooklyn!
Fortunately, the rest of the movie is so good that I really didn't mind
the odd casting. In fact, Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds were
excellent in the film--with acting and dialog that seemed pretty
realistic. They both play "starving artists" who come to New York but
find success is somehow always out of sight. I teach at an art school
and would like to show this to my students so they can, perhaps, see
what it usually is like on the slow road to making a living.
I also appreciated how the writers didn't allow the film to slide too far into sentimentality even though this was a romantic-comedy of sorts. That means when there can be a magical scene where things all work out perfectly, the writers chose instead to allow for a more realistic moment where things worked out,...somewhat. My favorite example was near the end when it appeared that Curtis' musical instruments unexpectedly re-appeared. This LOOKS like a "happily ever after moment" but there is a great twist--a twist that reminds us that in this film, just like in real life, Murphy's Law so often applies. To me, the real magic in the film is how despite all these setbacks and problems, the couple STILL manage to find each other and some shred of happiness. And, if you think about it, this is a great lesson for everyone.
A nice, romantic, funny but occasionally sad and cynical little film about life and little people.
By the way, look for Don Rickles in one of his earliest roles. He plays a guy who is amazingly creepy and cruel--quite a change from his later comedic roles. Also, the sweet guy behind the bar is Jack Oakie in one of his later roles
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.
I am surprised at the reviews thus far posted, as they miss one of the
major novelties of this movie. While Tony Curtis is never going to win
any awards for his musicianship, the little "group" that he tries to
join contains some pretty impressive "ringers", especially for a movie
that isn't all that much about the musical side of things.
Any group that contains the likes of Gerry Mulligan AND Sam Butera is going to raise more than a few musical eyebrows. As mentioned above, the music used in the film is nothing to get too worked up about, but these two icons (plus the other sidemen that surround them) are reason enough to consider this one "special".
A musical note or two about Curtis is in order here as well. He also played a tenor saxophone player in the iconic Some Like It Hot. While his autobiography is silent as to his actual saxophone playing skills, some of the fingerings that he used in that film were right for the music being played (although out of sync with the actual film sound track). It is mentioned that he has some flute playing skills in the biography, so his being a sax player is not out of the realm of possibility.
The horns that he is seen playing in this movie all appear to be Selmer instruments. When his horns get "lifted" by the boys in the band, Debbie Reynolds goes to bat for him and buys him a set of horns "to get by" on his cruise ship gig. However, the instruments purchased are Leblanc horns, recognizable by the distinctive tweed covered cases in which they came. But, when he is seen performing on the ship, he is again playing Selmer instruments. Since this was well before product placement in movies became common, it may be that he was playing his own horns and the Leblanc cases were used for their visual appeal.
Tony Curtis, (Pete Hammond Jr.) plays the role as a musician who plays a saxophone, clarinet and flute and he leaves Milwaukee, Wisconsin and heads to New York City to start out on his career. Pete has a hard time trying to find a cheap place to live and winds up sharing an apartment with a girl named Peggy Brown, (Debbie Reynolds) who is a dancer and singer and has lived in New York for a few years and is having a hard time trying to find a job doing what she likes. Peggy does work in a dance hall where men buy tickets for every dance and the establishment is owned by Don Rickles who is a very shady character who has a great interest in Peggy and has loaned her $600.00 and begins to want her to repay him in more ways than one. This is a great film because Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds and Don Rickles played very dramatic roles and they all gave outstanding performances. Veteran actor Jack Oakie, (Mac, Owner of Macs Bar) gave a great supporting role and also some comedy. If you have not seen this film, you are missing a great 1960 Classic, so keep an eye out for this film on TV. Enjoy.
Midwestern saxophonist Tony Curtis (as Pete Hammond Jr.) arrives in New
York City, seeking fame and fortune. Instead, he finds himself lost in
"The Rat Race". Mr. Curtis quickly meets disillusioned Debbie Reynolds
(as Peggy Brown). Ms. Reynolds works as a paid dancing partner, for
sailors and other lonely men. The two decide to pool their resources by
sharing an apartment, agreeing to a platonic living arrangement. The
roommates frequent the local watering hole, and hear older, wiser owner
Jackie Oakie (as Mac) and landlady Kay Medford (as Soda) dispense words
of wisdom. Curtis loses his musical instruments. Then, Reynolds loses
Will Curtis and Reynolds gain romance?
Robert Mulligan's version of Garson Kanin's play, which starred Barry Nelson and Betty Field, never really takes off. Curtis and Reynolds (and the film, generally) look way too sharp to be Mr. Kanin's desolation row denizens, clawing their way to the top. Don Rickles is a highlight, as Reynolds' brutal, sadistic boss. Norman Fell is amusing, as the telephone man. Reynolds is unexpectedly glamorous, almost more suited for the lead in "Butterfield 8"; and, she looks especially sexy undressing for the lecherous Mr. Rickles.
***** The Rat Race (7/10/60) Robert Mulligan ~ Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds, Don Rickles
The Rat Race (1960)
Maybe this will help: Tony Curtis is himself, really strong, and if you like him, you'll like him. Debbie Reynolds is kind of at her best, for me, less trivial than she is sometimes portrayed. She doesn't dance or sing, but is just a girl trying to make it in New York. Throw in Don Rickles at an exaggerated but believable role, with less humor and more grotesqueness. Finally, though big sax man Gerry Mulligan gets big letters in the credits, he appears, as himself, only briefly (though we do get to hear him play for a few seconds).
But let's turn this around and talk plot. In a very broad way, this is a kind of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" a year earlier. Nice guy lands in New York without a clue and local woman is braving it on her own and having to compromise her principles in the process. Even the music, by Elmer Bernstein, is in a Henry Mancini style (only rarely dipping into any real jazz, for those looking for that). Though painted as a story of boy meets girl and the improbable follows the unlikely, the basic premise is heartwarming and true to a lot of our dreams of making it, and making it with the right person (both).
I liked this movie a lot. It's even photographed by Alfred Hitchcock's cinematographer, Robert Burks, and so it looks good, too, in mildly widescreen Technicolor. It's a situation drama/comedy--there is no sensing that this is actually real. In that sense it's really a 1960 era movie, when artifice had reached a truly plastic kind of height (sometimes with wonderful results, but even classics like, say, "West Side Story" have a style from the times that is neither classic 1940s Hollywood in its believability nor totally creative invention as with those rare movies here and there all through the decades). The point is, you have to like this kind of set-up style to start with. You probably know whether movies like some of the Doris Day classics or even Marilyn Monroe movies are up your alley.
Or "Breakfast at Tiffany's," or the black and white counterpart in a different sense, "The Apartment." I think this Curtis/Reynolds romantic comedy is totally overlooked, and deserves a close look. There are ever some fabulous if fleeting shots of busy New York City. And if you've never heard of the director, Robert Mulligan (no relation to Gerry), don't worry. He did pull off one all time classic handled with similar panache--"To Kill a Mockingbird." Yeah, don't underestimate this one.
if you're thinking of Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds with their
Hollywood glamor - you're in for quite a surprise - this is grittier
stuff than they usually did - altho - not guttery or depressing - as it
would be in todays milieu
try to overlook the residue of Tonys Bronx accent - and enjoy his eager Midwestern saxophonist arriving in the jazz musicians mecca - Noo Yook City
except he's not in a typical Hollywood success story - here the emphasis is on disillusionment - and its actually risqué for its time - with Tony and struggling dancer Debbie Reynolds sharing an apartment - both actors are very good - Debbie could have used more such roles
the script is too talky perhaps - too much like a stage play - the most memorable thing for me beside the stars is the music - especially the throbbing theme song played over the opening scenes of Tony's cross country bus ride - from the plains of the Midwest - to smog shrouded NYC
and i can still hear in my mind the driving version of THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC played with real life saxophonists Sam Butera and Jerry Mulligan - and Joe Buskin at the keys - that scene demonstrates how convincing Curtis was at faking playing a saxophone - notice his red face while playing the large baritone sax - when i was in the school band - i could barely get a sound out of one of them
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