Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Rat Race (1960)

Tough, cynical romantic drama, directed by Robert Mulligan and based on Garson Kanin's play, with Tony Curtis as a young jazz musician from the midwest, newly arrived in New York City, who befriends struggling dancer Debbie Reynolds. The musician is repeatedly taken advantage of by strangers, and robbed of his instruments right before finally landing a paying gig. In order to get the money to help him out, the dancer is forced to degrade herself at the hands of her sleazy manager. Things work out about as well as can be expected, however, as the two characters realize that they have only each other to keep on going. An unrelentingly cynical and acidic story about desperate, unhappy characters just trying to survive, dressed up with Technicolor and Hollywood stars.

Partly shot on location, the vibrant Technicolor photography of early '60s Times Square - with its contrast of emerging seediness and glittering Broadway marquees -- bathes the film in atmosphere. Don Rickles demonstrates his dramatic acting chops with a standout performance as the unsavory dance hall manager/pimp, and Jack Oakie is good in one of the film's few sympathetic roles, as a world-weary bartender.

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