Furs on Film – The Great Race

I’m posting a film from 1965… about events in 1908. This will join previous time shifting entries like City Heat and the Dr. Phibes films. Still, it’s a film from 1965, and it will neatly fill the gap the in the decade list. Besides, The Great Race has Natalie Wood in 3 different fox furs in the space of about 10 minutes. That’s notable enough for me.

The Great Race – The Film

The Great Race is a broad, slapstick comedy from Blake Edwards based on the 1908 New York to Paris auto race. Tony Curits and Jack Lemmon star as rival daredevils, Curtis playing “The Great Leslie”, and Lemmon as “Professor Fate.” Along for the ride is Natalie Wood as Maggie DuBois, as a young photojournalist who starts in her own car but ends up hitching a ride with both Leslie and Fate at different points in the race. The last act of the film detours through The Prisoner of Zenda for no apparent reason, and even though critics hated it, it was one of the top films of 1965. Yep, they had that in the 60’s, too.

The Great Race – The Furs

I generally avoid early century period pieces because they’ve got a lot in common with the decade from which this film originates, at least in terms of their lack of interesting fur fashion. So my hunch is that the film’s costume designers took some liberties with the historical accuracy of the outfits that Maggie DuBois wears as the race passes through Alaska on their way to Russia. These are my favorite kind of liberties.

At this point in the race Maggie is in The Great Leslie’s car. They’ve entered Alaska, and being a slapstick comedy from the 60’s, Alaska is a barren, arctic wasteland. (You may feel free to insert your own joke about modern Alaska here.) Maggie is, suffice to say… well prepared:

This is outfit #1, a red fox trimmed parka and matching red fox trimmed gloves.

Moments later, we bounce from one end of the primary color spectrum to another, with equally enjoyable results. Outfit #2 is trimmed with silver fox, including what is either a large collar or a stole wrapped around her shoulders.

A later wide shot demonstrates it is probably large collar, as the hood and the collar wreath every part of Natalie Wood above her chest in silver fox fur.

Having floated across presumably the Bering Strait to Russia, Maggie appears in outfit #3, this one trimmed in blue fox. It’s like a trip across the fox rainbow with the best tour guide ever.

One of the few good close ups of Natalie Wood in this entire section of the film. While I’m a fan of letterbox presentation for viewing films in general, having seen this particular one in pan-and-scan long ago, I remember it did have the bonus of providing “close ups” of her more often. On the other hand… it also, unforgivably, cut to close-ups of Tony Curtis, too.

A final wide shot that allows the best view of the blue fox hat/collar/muff combo that is outfit #3.

She will soon be driven off by Professor Fate and show up in one final fur, a dark fur in a short night sequence that is sadly not well shot (for the fur, at least). Natalia Zacharenko did get to practice her Russian however briefly in that scene.

This one isn’t for anyone looking for staying power. The film itself is over a deuce-and-a-half, and this is one small part of it. Still, I really like Natalie Wood and I really like fox fur, so what’s not love about stuffing her into 3+ different fox furs over the course of a single sequence. Beyond the fur content, The Great Race is good comedy, too, one of the few films I’ve reviewed that I’ve actually “seen”, which is to say, not fast forwarded through only looking for furs.

Fur Runtime: approx 4 minutes
Film Runtime: 160 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 2%

Push the button for the Fur Fashions of the 1965 film The Great Race.

4 Responses to “Furs on Film – The Great Race”

  1. She would have looked good wearing Tony Curtis’s white fox trimmed parka; better than him wearing it.

    Just my personal view I hasten to add but I did not particularly like The Great Race, not enough furs and far too much custard pie humour; like a lot of comedy films of that era. There are some gems but they are few and far between which your requests for sixties fur films only goes to prove.

    Fur films for me had basically died by the end of the fifties or probably more so the end of the thirties; since mink became fashionable. Mink is a gorgeous fur to wear but it just does not look any where near as impressive as fox which the fashion designers in the thirties used it to great effect; the outfits were not just, and I quote you, brown paper bags. I recall the outfit that Lili Damita wore in The Match King, over the top perhaps but it certainly had the ‘Wow’ factor. I like to look through the thirties films just to see some of the amazing outfits that the designers had created.

  2. Ah, yes, the Tony Curtis shaped elephant in the room… I certainly agree that I would have much preferred to see that parka on Natalie Wood, heh.

    I did warn about the runtime of the film, yes. The furs are “highly concentrated” at best, and it’s a very long film, probably the longest I’ve ever posted about. I know you prefer the ones with quality and quantity, but they are the rarest of all, I’m sure you’ll agree.

    I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am a fan of “over the top”, too, perhaps “waaaay over the top”, actually, (there’s an ‘expert’ that could verify that, in fact) and I think Natalie’s foxes were certainly close to that first category, especially for 1965. They are a very short but sweet respite from the ocean of mink that characterized that decade.

    Don’t worry, there’s more 30’s on the way, I’m hardly giving up on my favorite decade. I may post The Match King, too, heh. But remember, that lovely fox creation didn’t have a lot of screen time. Much like Natalie’s Great Race furs, it was just in one scene.

  3. To continue with 60’s fur films; April Olrich wore a fox trimmed coat and a hat in The Intelligence Men; according to a picture i have. You might be surprised to hear that the film has been removed from Boo-Hootube so I have been unable to check.

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