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Furs on Film – The Great Race (1965)

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I’m posting a film from 1965 about events in 1908. It 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 in the decade list. Besides, The Great Race has Natalie Wood in 5 different furs in the space of about 20 minutes, and 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 Curtis 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, 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 film’s last act 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 ’60s, 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 exciting 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 ’60s, 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 trimmed parka and matching red fox trimmed gloves.

Up next is a -trimmed parka worn while doing some cooking.

Outfit #3 is trimmed with , including either a large collar or a stole wrapped around her shoulders.

A later wide shot demonstrates it is probably an oversized 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 #4, this one trimmed in . It’s like a trip across the fox rainbow with the best tour guide ever.

Here is 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 movies 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 allows the best view of the blue fox hat/collar/muff combo that is outfit #4.

She will soon be driven off by Professor Fate and show up in outfit #5, a dark fur that’s probably also . This is a short night sequence that is sadly not well shot (for the fur, at least). However, Natalia Zacharenko did get to practice her Russian briefly.

This one isn’t for anyone looking for staying power. The film itself is over a deuce-and-a-half, and this Alaskan sequence is only about 20 minutes of it. Still, I really like Natalie Wood, and I really like fox fur, so what’s not love about stuffing her into three different fox furs in a single act? Beyond the fur content, The Great Race is a 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 7 minutes
Film Runtime: 160 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 4%

Find-a-Fur, The Great Race, 1965

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