Sunday, 20 July 2014

Freeview film of the day : sunday 20th of July

Grand Prix (1966 175min.) [BBC2 4.15pm]

After causing a crash in which a colegue is badly injured, an American driver tries to fight his way back to the top.

On the day that we lost the wonderful James Garner it's good to be able to recommend the best of his many films.

Although he's best remembered for two long-running and very successful TV shows (Maverick and The Rockford Files) he was an in-demand film actor during the mid- and late sixties.

He had the ability (shared with Paul Newman) to take on a 'tough guy' role and add warmth, humour and an inate sense of goodness to the part.

Grand Prix is a spectacular film (made for the short-lived Cinerama format - triple width screens housed in a circus tent!) and is part of the last throes of Old Hollywood where the thought was that huge budget + action sequences + enormous cast on the screen would equal a big payday at the box office.
There was also the idea that if you sprinkled a few continental European actors in the cast you could suggest jet-set elegance to the viewer : here Yves Montand and Francoise Hardy turn up for no real reason other than to look glamorous.

The race scenes were filmed at Brands Hatch and several figures from F1 that viewers of a certain age will recall pop-up in cameos : Raymond Baxter is a TV interviewer, Jim Clark & Jack Brabham appear as themselves.

It's far too long at a touch under three hours (most of these would-be epics had enormous running times) but there's no denying that the action sequences are superbly done.
But away from the track it's Garner's film as he turms in an engaging peformance as the racing driver dealing with his own demons while attempting to reclaim his career and make amends for his past mistakes.

There's also a pulsating soundtrack from Maurice Jarre to add to the pleasure.

A fitting tribute to a superbly talented actor.

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