The Rat Race

The Rat Race is a 1960 American drama film adapted from the play of the same name by Garson Kanin. Directed by Robert Mulligan, it stars Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds as struggling young entertainment professionals in New York City. Filming took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sam Butera and Gerry Mulligan have minor roles as saxophonists.

The Rat Race
The Rat Race - 1960 - Poster.png
1960 theatrical poster
Directed byRobert Mulligan
Written byGarson Kanin
Produced byWilliam Perlberg
George Seaton
StarringTony Curtis
Debbie Reynolds
Jack Oakie
Don Rickles
CinematographyRobert Burks
Edited byAlma Macrorie
Music byElmer Bernstein
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • July 10, 1960 (1960-07-10) (U.S.)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,400,000 (US/ Canada)[1]


Wishing to pursue a career as a jazz saxophonist, Pete Hammond Jr. takes a bus from his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to New York City and optimistically begins looking for work. However, jobs are extremely hard to find. He crosses paths with Peggy Brown, a model and taxi dancer who has become jaded and cynical after years of struggling to survive in the city. She has just been evicted from an apartment rented to Pete, and because she is penniless and has no home to return to, he offers to let her stay with him. She is forced to rely on his generosity, and as the two of them work at various low-paying jobs, they stay together in the apartment as friends.

Peggy warns him that people cannot be trusted, but Pete is encouraged when a band auditions him for a job. When the other musicians send him out for beer, Pete returns to find that they have stolen his instruments and that he is the victim of a scam, thus proving Peggy right. Pete lands a job as an "alto man" on a cruise ship but has no instruments. Peggy goes to the abusive taxi dance hall owner she works for, Nelly Miller (Don Rickles), to whom she is already in debt, for another loan to give to Pete and agrees to prostitute herself with his patrons to pay back her debts. Maintaining a cynical front, Peggy convinces a suspicious Pete that she got the money with "no strings attached".

Pete writes Peggy daily throughout the next month while on the cruise. When she stalls at fulfilling her end of their deal, Nelly strips Peggy of her dress and shoes to make his point that he owns her. She runs out on their deal again the night Pete returns, and Nelly threatens to disfigure her. In love with Peggy and afraid for her, Pete gives up all his wages, his wristwatch and his new instruments to pay off Nelly. Later, Pete confesses to Peggy that he "mixed" with three women as part of his cruise job. Peggy agrees to stay with Pete but tells him that he should stop working on cruise ships.


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  1. ^ "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.

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