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Characters / The Great Race

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Character sheet for the 1965 film The Great Race.

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The Great Leslie
Played by: Tony Curtis

A successful daredevil who always dresses in white. He proposes an automobile race from New York to Paris and offers the Webber Motor Car Company the opportunity to build an automobile for him to pilot in this journey.

  • The Ace: He's crazy good at any endeavour he throws himself into.
  • Badass Driver: A great driver, and a great fencer too.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: He can't resist the good will of any woman.
  • Cool Car: The Webber Motor Car Company builds him a customized white hot rod specifically for the race, the Leslie Special.
  • The Hero: Almost so caricaturally heroic that the only thing lacking is a sign pointing to him saying "here's the hero" (and one for Fate that would say "here's the villain") - the opening slideshow even has a crowd cheering for him while Fate gets booed. Though it is mitigated by way of chivalrous perversion, not rendering him completely boring.
  • Master Swordsman: He's an unbeatable fencer as Maggie, and later Baron von Stuppe, find out.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Why else would he be shirtless in the climax?
  • Only One Name: He's just known as "Leslie".
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: He's visibly rich, wears white clothes and drives a white car.
  • Theme Mobile: The Leslie Special bears his name and is as white as his clothes.


Maggie DuBois
Played by: Natalie Wood

A photojournalist who wants to become the first female reporter for the New York Sentinel newspaper, and a vocal suffragette. She wants to prove herself by covering the New York-Paris car race at all cost, going as far as competing in it herself.

  • Brainy Brunette: She's quite smart, always finding clever ways to stay in the race.
  • Cool Car: Maggie enters the race with a Stanley Steamer. Unlike the cars used by Leslie and Fate, it is not modified and quickly proves to be ill-fitted for such a race, so Maggie ends up accompanying Leslie.
  • Determinator: No matter what gets in her way, she keeps coming back at either Leslie or Professor Fate to cover the race.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: She wears quite a few. The great Edith Head, the costume designer for the movie, really went to town on the splendid 1900's outfits for Natalie Wood, from riding habit to motoring costumes to evening gowns.
  • Hyperspace Wardrobe: She has an Unlimited Wardrobe for most of the film. How she carries it all around throughout the world without a truck following her is anyone's guess.
  • Made of Iron: She survives getting blown up by Fate's cannon with little more to show for it than burned and shredded clothing and a face covered in soot. Further, it doesn't seem to effect her or slow her down at all.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • She obtains sponsorship by the New York Sentinel by way of Show Some Leg to the editor in chief.
    • She doesn't wear much when she gets kidnapped by the men of Baron von Stuppe, so she spends a significant amount of time in the third act just wearing a corset and stockings.
  • Polyglot: She boasts to Leslie that she can speak, read and write Russian, French and Arabic. She gets to display her knowledge of Russian later in the film.
  • Straw Feminist: Has some shades of this. For example, despite her stated goal of "taking women off the pedestal", she is not above pretending to be a Damsel in Distress when it suits her. She also makes a habit of reading misogynist undertones into the comments of other characters where none exist, such as insisting that Leslie's genuine compliments about her driving ability are all secretly suffixed with "for a woman".
  • The Suffragette: She wants to become the New York Sentinel's first female reporter in order to promote women's rights, including the right to vote. In her absence, the Sentinel is literally invaded by a cohort of other suffragettes.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: She wears a different dress in every scene, except from her corset and stockings in the third act for plot reasons.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: When her car breaks down, she lies down on the ground as if she had fainted so Leslie would stop and help her.


Professor Fate
Played by: Jack Lemmon

A black-clad rival daredevil to the Great Leslie and inventor. The villain of the story, he always tries to undermine/get rid of Leslie, only for his plans to backfire.

  • Butt-Monkey: His plans tend to backfire on him. A lot.
  • Catchphrase: "Push the button, Max!"
  • Cool Car: The Hannibal Twin 8, which he built for the New York-Paris race by assembling stolen industrial car parts. It has a built-in cannon, an ice melter that doubles as a stove, a smoke screen, and many more.
  • Dark Is Evil: He always dresses in black and he can't help but devising dirty schemes. Although it's mostly in Laughably Evil territory.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: Quite possibly the Trope Codifier. Dick Dastardly is actually based on him. And he resembles Snidely Whiplash as well.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Though he's not quite deadpan.
    • On being told the iceberg he's stranded on is sinking:
      "Of course I'll keep it to myself... until the water reaches my lower lip and then I'M GONNA MENTION IT TO SOMEBODY!!!"
  • Determinator: Nothing can seemingly stop him from trying to achieve his goals, no matter how absurd or hopeless they can be.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: In spades. In fact, Dick Dastardly was partially based on him, so Fate is in fact the Trope Codifier.
  • Ditzy Genius: He invents downright amazing machines for his time... and he wastes this talent in the incredibly vain pursuit of besting Leslie.
  • Driven by Envy: His main drive is to best the Great Leslie, no matter the stunt, the competition or the cost.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: A cheat and a liar he may be, but impersonating a Prince and helping stage a coup isn't something he'd ever do. He only goes along with it when threatened. Though he does take advantage of his position to imprison Leslie, and could've done worse to him, he only wants him to stay in prison until Fate finishes the race in Paris.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He has shades of this. When he does have the chance to directly hurt someone, as in when Leslie is imprisoned, he doesn't take it. He also has no problem with sharing his and Max's supplies and his car's equipment with Maggie and Leslie when they're stuck together on an ice floe.
  • Large Ham: He's very melodramatic and very gleeful in his villainy. His laugh takes this Up to Eleven.
  • Laughably Evil: He's thoroughly and laughably ineffectual in most of his dirty schemes.
  • Made of Iron: Realistically, he should be dead pretty much every time he's Hoist by His Own Petard early in the film, but Artistic License – Physics being at play, he survives without a scratch every time.
  • Nice Hat: He wears a black top hat most of the time, to cement the Dastardly Whiplash imagery.
  • Only One Name: His first name is never mentioned.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: He almost always is dressed in a well-tailored suit and tie.
  • The Rival: Sets himself up as one to the Great Leslie, although Leslie doesn't even notice until the race is well in motion.
  • Theme Mobile: He adorns all of his vehicles with either his full name or his initials, and all of them are painted as black as his clothes.


Maximilian "Max" Meen
Played by: Peter Falk

Professor Fate's sidekick, who helps him in his schemes.

  • Everyone Has Standards: After he recovers the Hannibal Twin 8, he could've simply left the others behind, gone to the Palace, rescued Fate and been on their way. Instead he stays to help rescue the others.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: When he's left on his own to devise a plan to free his boss as well as the other remaining racers, he's surprisingly good, like using a monk disguise when a lot of monks are walking around, sneakily knocking down prison guards and even using the Hannibal Twin 8's smoke screen to great effect to incapacitate the Baron's guards in the courtyard while Leslie deals with the Baron. Fate would be utterly incapable of doing any of this.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He does team up with Leslie against the Baron, but as soon as Fate is free and the way is clear, he makes a run with his boss to resume the race without caring about Leslie, Maggie or Hezekiah.
  • Yes-Man: He (almost) never discusses Fate's orders.


Hezekiah Sturdy
Played by: Keenan Wynn

The loyal assistant and sidekick of the Great Leslie.

  • Badass Mustache: A prominent one. He pairs this with...
  • Bald of Awesome: His baldness is how he identifies himself to Leslie at some distance during the film's second-act.

    Prince Hapnick 

Crown Prince Hapnik / King Hapnick
Played by: Jack Lemmon

The alcoholic and foppish Crown Prince of the small kingdom of Carpania.

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: He sounds silly and does stupid things, but that's because he's drunk most of the time.
  • The Alcoholic: He is thoroughly sloshed in pretty much all of his scenes.
  • Annoying Laugh: Which Fate is coerced into imitating for the conspiracy to work.
  • Identical Stranger: He is the spitting image of Professor Fate (being played by the same actor), which is quickly exploited by General Kuhster and Baron Rolfe von Stuppe for their conspiracy to usurp the throne.
  • Manchild: Despite being an adult, he behaves mostly like a spoiled child. He's at his happiest when the pie fight erupts.
  • Nice Guy: He's genuinely nice to Leslie and doesn't seem to be a jerk despite being The Alcoholic and exhibiting little interest in his royal duties.
  • Rebel Prince: He's more interested in partying, drinking and playing with his dogs than in caring about etiquette or his royal duties. It's not to Royal Brat levels since he seems older than average for the trope, and he's far from being a jerkass.

    Baron von Stuppe 

Baron Rolfe von Stuppe
Played by: Ross Martin

A Carpanian nobleman and the co-leader of the conspiracy to usurp Prince Hapnick with General Kuhster.

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: He's a baron and kidnaps his own country's prince to usurp him.
  • Big Bad: He is this for the group during their layover in Carpania and the film's closest thing to a real villain. Fate only wants to outdo Leslie whereas Von Stuppe wants to stage a coup and is not above killing people.
  • Master Swordsman: He's a great fencer, but he progressively finds out he can't beat Leslie.

    Texas Jack 

Texas Jack
Played by: Larry Storch

The most feared outlaw in Boracho. He becomes jealous of the attraction Leslie has for showgirl Lily Olay (his girlfriend it seems), and a saloon brawl ensues.

  • Badass Mustache: He has a long mustache that matches his (kind of overrated) reputation.
  • Bandito: He looks like a stereotypical Mexican outlaw with his sombrero and big mustache, but absolutely doesn't sound like one.
  • Catchphrase: "Give me some fighting room!"
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: He can't stand that someone else than him is interested in Lily Olay (his girlfriend, apparently).
  • The Dreaded: He seems to be feared by everyone in Boracho.
  • Informed Ability: He is described as the toughest man in the area and everyone is scared of him when he first shows up at the bar, and even the sheriff backs down from his threats, but once the fight starts he's not any better at fighting than Leslie, Hezekiah, or his own goons for that matter (though he does send Leslie flying with a punch).
  • Large Ham: He shouts quite a lot.
  • Red Baron: "Texas" most likely isn't his first name.
  • Wild Card Excuse: Whenever he gets clobbered, it's because he didn't have enough "fighting room", according to him.


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