The Music Of The Rat Race

As a retiree, I guess I’m not as susceptible to the hazards of the dreaded rat race that so many people have to face on a daily basis. But I certainly recall a time when I did often feel like a rat racing through a maze, and I also remember a movie of the same name that had a definite musical connection — which makes it perfect for consideration on the GMC.

It was in 1960 that Bernard Herschel Schwartz (AKA Tony Curtis) teamed up with Debbie Reynolds to make The Rat Race, a film that had a pretty solid footing in jazz — at least by Hollywood standards. Curtis played a naive young Midwestern jazz musician who travels to New York to try and make his mark among the best. Debbie — playing a harder-edged character than was usual for her at that time — was a girl who was desperately trying to hold on to her self-respect in the face of various troubles. The movie also features comedian Don Rickles trying his best to appear menacing.

Most of the original music in the movie was the work of veteran composer Elmer Bernstein, and several real jazz musicians portrayed characters in the film (and also furnished the actual notes that Tony Curtis pretended to play). Included among them were Gerry Mulligan, Dave Pell, and Sam Butera, who would later issue an album of music from the film. You can get the feel for the hard-driving theme song in the video at the bottom, and you can hear the full version below, as recorded by bandleader Richard Maltby.

Richard Maltby & Orchestra – “Rat Race Theme”


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