December 1, 1964
Most films get the kiss of box office mediocrity when they choose the Central Coast as a location. Arachnophobia, My Blue Heaven, The Monster of Piedras Blancas, I Know who Killed Me, The Great Race, film it here and the movie will more likely flop than fly. Ain’t a Citizen Kane in the bunch. Post a comment if you disagree.
According to Wikipedia, The Great Race underperformed at the box office but over the years it has proved more durable than the first release results would indicate. It has my nomination for best movie filmed in the county.
Directed by Blake Edwards (Pink Panther movies, 10) the cast included:
• Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate/Prince Hapnick
• Natalie Wood as Maggie DuBois
• Tony Curtis as Leslie Gallant III (“The Great Leslie”)
• Peter Falk as Maximillian ‘Max’ Meen
• Keenan Wynn as Hezekiah Sturdy
A cross between Roadrunner cartoons, classic silent movie slapstick, costume caper and movie parody, Jack Lemmon takes a rare turn as a villain.
Professor Fate would exhort his evil henchman to, “Push the button Max.” as he tries to prevent the Great Leslie from winning a post Victorian era race from New York to Paris.
Patti Elder, stand in for Natalie Wood, filmed horseback scenes in the Oceano Dunes as the camera flew overhead in a helicopter.
Long time readers of the paper will recognize the byline of staff writer Dorie Bentley who wrote features for the paper until she retired in 1990’s. She began her career when she made a feisty call to a local paper and complained that her garden club publicity releases were being mangled. The editor invited her to report for the paper and she ended up having rich career from that decision to pick up the phone.
Photos by Jim Vestal